Thursday, February 23, 2006
2,236% rise in MRSA-related deaths - UK
David Batty, health correspondent
Thursday February 23, 2006
The number of deaths linked to the superbug MRSA has risen by 2,236% in just over a decade, researchers said today.
Only 50 deaths in England and Wales were linked to MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) in 1993, compared with 1,168 in 2004, the Office for National Statistics said.
The number of MRSA-related deaths rose by more than one-fifth (22%) between 2003 and 2004, with the superbug mentioned on one out of every 500 death certificates. This does not mean MRSA was the cause of death, only that it contributed to it.
But 360 deaths were directly attributed to MRSA in 2004 - a 2,400% increase from 1993 when only 15 were caused by the superbug.
The figures come after the Department of Health admitted that hospitals in England were failing to meet the target to reduce MRSA rates by 50% by 2008. Specialist "hit squads" are to be sent into the 20 NHS trusts facing the biggest challenges in reducing infection rates.
The Patients Association said the figures were disappointing. Its chairman, Michael Summers, said: "It is clear that MRSA and hospital infections are winning the war in many of our wards."
Most of the deaths involving MRSA were in people aged over 85, and rates were higher among men than women. In men and women over 85 respectively, there were 543 and 258 deaths per million linked to MRSA in 2004, compared with 0.8 and 0.4 deaths per million in males and females under 45.
The superbug, which is resistant to conventional antibiotics, is linked to three out of every 1,000 deaths in NHS hospitals and nursing homes.
The figures also showed an almost 376% rise in the number of deaths linked to all types of Staphylococcus bacteria, including MRSA; from 432 in 1993 to 1,623 in 2004. The number of deaths directly attributed to all types of these infections increased by almost 352% from 156 in 1993 to 549 in 2004.
The ONS said the steep rise in deaths linked to Staphylococcus bacteria could be due to improved recording of superbug infections, perhaps as a result of public and political concern.
Department figures showed that in the six-month period from April to September 2005, 3,580 cases of MRSA bloodstream infections were reported in England - up from 3,525 for the same period the previous year.
The government's chief nursing officer, Christine Beasley, said: "It is important to put this into context. These figures show that out of 12 million people that go in to hospital in a year about 360 of them probably die directly of MRSA, but it is unacceptable for anyone to die unnecessarily from infections.
"Many people who have MRSA are very, very sick people prone to infection and not all infections are avoidable, but we are ensuring that the NHS has good hand hygiene and clinical procedures to prevent the ones that are."