New research suggests that the use of a commonly prescribed antibiotic is likely to be a major contributor to the spread of infection in hospitals by the 'superbug' MRSA.
The research was undertaken at St George's, University of London. The research examined MRSA infection rates over a ten year period. The research found, turning some accepted thinking on its head, that MRSA rates dropped when hospital prescriptions of ciprofloxacin, were reduced. Ciprofloxacin is a commonly prescribed antibiotic.
The research brief notes that in one period of the study, ciprofloxacin prescriptions were reduced from 70-100 daily doses for every thousand occupied beds to about 30 doses. In the same period, the number of patients identified as infected with MRSA fell by half, from an average of about 120 a month to about 60.
The Independent notes that the research study also concluded that increasing measures to prevent infection, such as improved hygiene and hand washing, have only a small effect on reducing MRSA infection rates. This is not to suggest that hand washing and infection control are not important, but they are not enough to cause the decrease in MRSA.
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a bacteria that causes infection and the term refers to a bacteria which is resistant to all of the penicillin-type antibiotics frequently used in hospitals to prevent and treat infection. The bacteria can cause serious infections of the skin, blood, lungs and bones. The most resistant strain is called CC22.
The study was led by Dr Jodi Lindsay and it has been published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. The reference is:
G. M. Knight et al. Shift in dominant hospital-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (HA-MRSA) clones over time. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 2012; 67 (10