Big City Hospitals Act as 'Hub' for Superbugs

Hospitals are breeding grounds for MRSA superbug

(RxWiki News) How do you trace the path of a superbug? Researchers are on the trail of MRSA, a drug-resistant bacterial infection that breeds and spreads through hospitals.

A new study used MRSA's genetic code, taken from infected patients, to track its spread around the United Kingdom.

The researchers found that MRSA originated in large city hospitals, and traveled to smaller, regional hospitals using patients as carriers.

"Wash your hands and face often."

The research was conducted by a team at Edinburgh University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph infection that is resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat bacterial infections. MRSA has become infamous among hospitals and other healthcare settings, where it has caused sickness and death among patients.

It can be transmitted through surgeries or devices, as well as via skin-to-skin contact. Handwashing and other simple hygiene measures have helped cut down the numbers of patients infected by MRSA in recent years.

The study looked at the genetic code behind more than 80 variants of a common clone of MRSA, which goes back 35 years. The researchers also identified mutations and other genetic elements that led to new MRSA variants, and traced their spread around the country.

Dr. Ross Fitzgerald, who led the study said in a statement: "We found that variants of MRSA circulating in regional hospitals probably originated in large city hospitals. The high levels of patient traffic in large hospitals means they act as a hub for transmission between patients, who may then be transferred or treated in regional hospitals."

That means that large city hospitals are ground zero for MRSA, and the superbug uses patients as carriers to spread into other regions.

The study's findings could help lead to new approaches to stop the spread of MRSA between hospitals.

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Review Date: 
May 15, 2012