Department of Defense have announced an analysis of more than nine million active and non active military personnel, showing a decline in rates of MRSA infections in both hospitalized patients and those in the community, a new report published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) informed.

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) has become an increasing issue in recent years, with more infections of the staph bacteria that’s become resistant to the antibiotics that commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections. MRSA affects mainly hospital patients, and infection often starts during surgery, from an IV point or around an artificial limb. Another type of MSRA can be spread by skin contact and is especially a problem for people in high schools as well as childcare workers and those living in crowded conditions.

The article states that:

“The magnitude of invasive MRSA infections as well as the emergence of community-onset MRSA infections in the United States has been well documented according to background information in the article. In parallel with the emergence of community-onset MRSA infections in the U.S. civilian population, skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) have become a significant public health issue for the U.S. military … Rates of hospital-onset MRSA infections are reported as decreasing, but recent rates of community-onset S aureus infections are less known.”

Michael L. Landrum, M.D., of the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, conducted the research looking at the incidence rates of aureus bacteremia and SSTIs and the proportion due to MRSA. Looking through their medical records, they identified all annual first-positive S aureus blood and wound or abscess cultures as methicillin-susceptible S aureus (MSSA) or MRSA, while separating them into hospital or community infections.

The data ranged from 2005 to 2010 and covered more than 9.2 million people who received care within the Department of Defense healthcare system. 52% were men and 84% were in non active duty. In total researchers found:

  • 2,643 S aureus cultures for blood infections
  • 80,281 S aureus cultures for wound or abscess annual first-positive
  • 2,094 (79 percent) Community-onset infections of S aureus
  • 79,801 (99 percent) cases of S aureus SSTIs
  • The rate of community-onset MRSA bacteremia was highest for those aged 65 years or older
  • The rates of community-onset bacteremia were higher in men than in women
  • Fifty-eight percent of community-onset S aureus SSTIs were due to MRSA – significantly higher than for either community-onset bacteremia (39 percent) or hospital-onset SSTIs (53 percent)
  • Fifty-four percent of cases of hospital-onset bacteremia were due to MRSA

Overall, the incidence rate decreased from 62% in 2006 down to only 52% in 2010. The rates seemed to decrease in both hospitals and communities in parallel, however, the military burden of S aureus bacteremia and SSTIs remains elevated, highlighting the need for successful prevention and treatment strategies.

The article concludes:

“These observations, taken together with results from others showing decreases in the rates of health care-associated infections from MRSA, suggest that broad shifts in the epidemiology of S aureus infections may be occurring. Additional studies are needed to assess whether these trends will continue, which prevention methods are most effective, and to what degree other factors may be contributing.”

Written by Rupert Shepherd