Reports of MRSA have increased by 3.6% in England over the last year

Latest data from the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency show that reports of MRSA have increased by 3.6% in England over the last year.

The results from the third year of the mandatory surveillance scheme for Staphylococcus aureus show the number of blood-stream infections caused by both sensitive strains, and also strains resistant to methicillin (MRSA) broken down by regions and also by each acute NHS Trust.

The main findings from April 2003 to March 2004 show:

  • Reports of blood-stream infections caused by MRSA have increased from 7,384 in 2002/03 to 7,647 in 2003/04. This represents a 3.6% increase during the last year.
  • The percentage of Staphylococcus aureus resistant to methicillin (MRSA) has remained stable at approximately 40% over the first 3 years of mandatory surveillance. However the total number of S. aureus infections (both methicillin-sensitive and methicillin-resistant) has increased and the number of blood-stream infections caused by methicillin sensitive strains increased by 9.2% from 10,683 in 2002/0303 to 11,664 in 2003/04.
  • Over the last year, the rate of MRSA in some general acute trusts has increased, while the rate in some specialist trusts had decreased. There are limitations in comparing rates with other Trusts, as the rate of MRSA can be affected by a number of factors including the types of patients treated in a Trust ('case mix') and the predominant strain of MRSA in the Trust.

Health Secretary John Reid said:

'Today's publication of the latest MRSA rates, hospital by hospital, on the internet is an important part of giving patients more information about this problem.

'It is clear from these figures, and from today's National Audit Office report, that some parts of the NHS have to do more to control this threat and match the achievements of hospitals which maintain low MRSA rates.

'The NAO report is an important reminder that everyone in the NHS needs to keep infection control at the top of their agenda.'

John Reid added:

'The plans I set out earlier this week will help us to bring all hospitals up to the level of the best. We want to give patients a greater role. And front-line staff like matrons will have more power to improve infection control. We are also making clear to hospital managers they will be judged on their performance in reducing MRSA infection rates.

'We will also be boosting the scientific research effort to ensure every possible means of detecting and destroying superbugs is fully explored.'

Professor Pat Troop, Chief Executive of the Health Protection Agency said:

'The increase we have seen in these infections over the last decade is caused by a combination of reasons including the fact that through the advances in modern medicine we are now able to keep patients alive for longer, but this means carrying out more invasive procedures which can lead to infection and also through the emergence of epidemic strains of MRSA (notably EMRSA 15 and 16) which can be more difficult to control.

'The most effective way of controlling the spread of both Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA in hospitals is through early detection and appropriate isolation and treatment. Prevention of cross infection is of paramount importance, which will include good hand hygiene and healthcare professionals should ensure they always wash or decontaminate their hands thoroughly in-between treating patients.

'We welcome the initiatives announced this week by the Secretary of State for Health, which build on the Agency's current programme of work. This includes; rolling out of mandatory surveillance of infections associated with hospitals, looking at mortality associated with MRSA and finding ways of looking at the virulence of different strains of MRSA.'


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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