Antibiotic-resistant staph infections occurring more in Australian communities, not hospitals

Australian National University

Tuesday, 31 October, 2017

Antibiotic-resistant staph infections occurring more in Australian communities, not hospitals

Research led by The Australian National University (ANU) has found that the proportion of ‘staph’ infections resistant to antibiotics has increased in Australia since 2000, with most cases now occurring in the community rather than in hospitals.

A staph infection occurs when the Staphylococcus bacteria invades the body, resulting most commonly in skin infections such as boils. More than 2300 cases of severe staph infections — where the bacteria entered the bloodstream causing sepsis, which is potentially deadly — occurred across Australia in 2015.

Until the early 2000s in Australia, staph infections resistant to antibiotics mostly occurred in hospitals. Analysing pathology results from about 40,000 patients in the Hunter New England Local Health District, the ANU-led research team found hospital infection rates are improving, with decreased infections in two of the region’s largest hospitals. Furthermore, the dominance of the multiresistant strain has decreased.

The unfortunate by-product of this, said lead author Dr Jason Agostino from the ANU Medical School, is that about 60% of drug-resistant staph infections are now picked up in the community. Therefore, infection control needs to shift its focus to the community as well.

“It’s great to see a drop in drug-resistant staph infections in hospitals, but we need to develop more targeted use of antibiotics in the community,” Dr Agostino said.

“The problem of infections resistant to antibiotics in our community is not just a theoretical problem that will happen some time in the future — it’s happening right now.”

The researchers analysed the data with the aim of identifying groups at risk of the infection, patterns of antimicrobial resistance and the proportion of patients with drug-resistant staph infections but no history of recent hospitalisation. They discovered that patients most at risk of the drug-resistant staph infection in the community are young people, Indigenous Australians and residents of aged-care facilities.

Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, the researchers stated that “new strategies for controlling infections in the community are needed to reduce the prevalence of non-multi-resistant strains”.

“We also need to improve the way we share data on antibiotic resistance to staph infections and link this to hospitalisation across health systems,” Dr Agostino said.

Image credit: © Images

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