Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections are a health-care concern around the globe. In the U.S. the mortality rate for this infection is 6.3 (interval estimate 3.3-7.5) per 100,000 according to this report. In addition, infections acquired in hospitals increase hospital stay, require longer treatment and management, increase in infectious control demands. The puts a large financial burden on healths systems, e.g. it costs the UK's NHS ~1 billion [pounds] per annum. In the US this costs gets incorporated into the premiums that individuals and employers pay. Fortunately the solution appears simple:
  • Prescribe fewer antibiotics.
  • MRSA patients are isolated and medical staff who test positive stay at home.
  • Track each individual case by strain and test anyone who has been in contact with an infected person.
The first point is key. Antibiotic-resistant infectious agents are selected for when people use antibiotics. If fewer people use antibiotics, then fewer resistant strains will exist making antibiotic use more effective. Unfortunately our current system over prescribes antibiotics. As an anecdote, I recently had my annual physical and during this physical my doctor prescribed an antibiotic for a cyst in my nostril telling me to use it as a precaution. I purchased the prescription and used it twice and now the cyst is basically gone. In this case the antibiotic was unnecessary. If this AP article is to be believed, Norway has put this system in place and is the most infection-free country in the world. Perhaps we should take a page out of their book.

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05 January 2010