MRSA levels fall by half in 2014 – ministry

Since the start of an MRSA campaign in 2011, bacterium levels have dropped by 66%.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics.

Preliminary data from Mater Dei Hospital on the hospital-acquired MRSA superbug – Methicilin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus – has shown a massive decrease of some 50% in 2014, compared to the levels registered in 2013.

The number of MRSA cases were halved from 24 in 2013 to 11 in 2014.

Parliamentary secretary for health Chris Fearne, speaking to MaltaToday, said the data is the result of an admission-screening programme at Mater Dei that started in 2013.

What singles out MRSA from other bacteria as the most common superbug found in hospitals is that it cannot be killed by the standard antibiotic methicillin, a synthetic form of penicillin.

“This is yet another tangible example of how the health department is consistently adopting a proactive stance wherever it matters most. We strive to prevent problems rather than fixing them later,” Fearne said.

“The screening strategy is tangible proof of how no efforts have been spared to marry clinical effectiveness with cost-benefit at the health department, all for the wellbeing of patients.”

Since the start of the MRSA campaign in 2011, bacterium levels have dropped by 66%. It is estimated that at least 10 less patients have died yearly from this preventable infection and several tens of thousands of euros saved from patient care costs particularly on third line antibiotics.

The people most at risk of MRSA are frail patients, those having surgery, and patients with lowered immunity after having undergone treatments such as chemotherapy. Ironically, the very advances in medical science that keep so many people alive can also pose a danger: ventilators, monitors and dialysis equipment provide avenues for bacteria to get into the bloodstream.

Mater Dei Hospital screens all patients admitted into the higher risk wards for the deadly superbug MRSA. A nose swab is used to identify patients carrying the bacterium and special disinfectant creams and soaps will remove it from their body,.

Local research has shown that 10 to 15 per cent of patients admitted to Mater Dei are unknowing carriers of the superbug, one of the highest rates in the world.

More in Health