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In a given year, as many as 1.2 million hospital patients may have a drug-resistant staphylococcus infection, according to research conducted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). Current data indicate that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) accounts for more than 60% of health care-associated infections.


Using surveys, the APIC researchers asked over 10,000 infection control professionals to choose one day in October or November 2006 to collect data about all patients in their facilities who were identified with MRSA infection or colonization. The survey also included data on over 8,000 patients infected or colonized with MRSA from every state and over 1,200 health care facilities, including acute care, long-term care, and rehabilitation facilities.


Researchers found MRSA infection or colonization in 46 of every 1,000 patients-a rate that's roughly 10% higher than previous estimates. Seventy-seven percent of cases were detected within 48 hours of admission, indicating that these patients were already infected or colonized with the pathogen, either during a previous hospitalization or in the community. Contrary to expectations, 67% of patients with MRSA were in medical, not intensive care, units.


Only 28% of facilities performed active surveillance for MRSA, which is the only way to detect colonization. Researchers say as many as 119,000 hospitalized patients may die of MRSA each year.


Researchers presented their findings at APIC's annual meeting this summer in San Jose, Calif. For more information, visit APIC's Web site at http://www.apic.org.