MRSA staph infections have dropped by nearly 30 percent in U.S. hospitals since 2005, say U.S. health officials.
The most significant decline, 50 percent, was in hospital-acquired infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There were 111,300 methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in U.S. hospitals in 2005, but that number shrunk dramatically and by 2011 was down to 80,500, Reuters reported
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"The good news is… the most serious kind of infection that lands people in hospitals and kills people is going down in the U.S.," the CDC's Dr. Raymund Dantes told Reuters.
The conclusions were based on 2011 data collected from select counties in nine U.S. states and then compared with similar data from 2005 collected from the same counties.
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, commonly referred to as staph, are found on a person's skin in approximately one third of the U.S. population and are generally harmless; however, when they gain access to the bloodstream via a cut or scrape it can become deadly.
Common staph infection symptoms are small red bumps on the skin that can give way to more severe sores and eventually life-threatening infections in bones, organs and the bloodstream, Reuters noted.
Staph strains resistant to the antibiotic methicillin can only be treated with one other antibiotic, and the worry is they will become resistant to that one too.
The encouraging news comes at a time when the CDC is warning about a class of fast-growing killer bacteria that poses an urgent public-health threat
in the United States.
While the new study cannot explain why infection rates are dropping, Dantes said it's likely attributable, in part, to hospital efforts to reduce the spread of infections.
So-called community-acquired infections not linked to healthcare fell by just 5 percent in comparison.
"What's interesting about our study, we didn't see a big change in the number of community-associated infections. So we haven't made as much progress getting those down," Dantes said.
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"Certainly there is more research that needs to be done to understand community-associated invasive MRSA infections," he added. "So that's an area we're looking into more."
Though MRSA staph infections are commonly caught in hospital settings, they can be acquired elsewhere, particularly in gym and school locker rooms, which accounts for the disparity between the 50 percent drop among hospital-acquired infections and the overall 30 percent drop of staph infections.
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