Deadly antibiotic-resistant staph infections tend to strike more seniors in winter and more children in summer, according to new research that has identified seasonal trends in the bacterial illnesses.
The nationwide study, led by a Johns Hopkins researcher, suggests overuse of antibiotics in winter may to blame for the infection trends of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA).
"Overprescribing antibiotics is not harmless," said Eili Klein, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Advanced Modeling in the Social, Behavioral and Health Sciences.
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"Inappropriate use of these drugs to treat influenza and other respiratory infections is driving resistance throughout the community, increasing the probability that children will contract untreatable infections."
Klein noted the winter strain that infects seniors at a greater rate is generally acquired in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings, and is resistant to more antibiotics.
The summer strain of MRSA, seen with growing frequency in children in July and August as a result of a wound or ailment, is largely a community-transmitted strain that is resistant to fewer antibiotics.
The study, published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology, also found that while MRSA strains follow these seasonal patterns, overall MRSA infections have not decreased over the last five years, despite efforts to control their spread. Klein and colleagues noted hospitalizations from infections tied to MRSA doubled in the United States between 1999 and 2005.
For the new study, the researchers analyzed national MRSA data for 2005-2009. Klein said additional research on seasonal patterns of MRSA infections and drug resistance may help with developing new treatment guidelines, prescription practices, and infection control programs.
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