Superbug infection regulated by special rules

California’s authorities have issued an order for hospitals to report incidents of staph infection that lead to lethal outcome or intensive medical aid for patients.

The move shows raising concerns of U.S. officials in the alarming increase in staphylococcus infection which is said to kill 19,000 American citizens a year.

Until recently there was no special regulation to report the staph infections to local authorities. The new requirement is limited to cases that start outside hospitals, leaving out about 85 percent of life-threatening encounters with the most feared bug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

"We are concerned about recent reports of severe MRSA infections in previously healthy individuals," he told reporters during a telephone news conference. "We believe we will have a better picture of the incidence of staph infections in California," State Epidemiologist Dr. Gilberto Chavez said.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium responsible for difficult-to-treat infections in humans. It may also be referred to as multiply-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (ORSA). The organism is often sub-categorized as Community-Associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) or Hospital-Associated MRSA (HA-MRSA) depending upon the circumstances of acquiring disease, based on current data that these are distinct strains of the bacterial species.

MRSA is a resistant variation of the common bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. It has evolved an ability to survive treatment with beta-lactam antibiotics, including penicillin, methicillin, and cephalosporins. MRSA is especially troublesome in hospital-associated (nosocomial) infections. In hospitals, patients with open wounds, invasive devices, and weakened immune systems are at greater risk for infection than the general public. Hospital staff who do not follow proper sanitary procedures may transfer bacteria from patient to patient.

MRSA was discovered in 1961 in the UK. It is now found worldwide. MRSA is often referred to in the press as a "superbug."

In the past decade or so the number of MRSA infections in the United States has increased significantly. A 2007 report in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimated that the number of MRSA infections treated in hospitals doubled nationwide, from approximately 127,000 in 1999 to 278,000 in 2005, while at the same time deaths increased from 11,000 to more than 17,000. Another study led by the CDC and published in the October 17, 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that MRSA would have been responsible for 94,360 serious infections and associated with 18,650 hospital stay-related deaths in the United States in 2005. These figures suggest that MRSA infections are responsible for more deaths in the U.S. each year than AIDS.