Community-acquired MRSA infections are becoming increasingly common in pediatric ICU (PICU) patients, according to the results of a new study from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center
In 2007, lead investigator Aaron Milstone, MD, MHS, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s, and his team began screening all patients at the time of admission and then weekly until they were discharged. They found that 6% of the 1,674 children who were admitted to the PICU at Children’s between 2007 and 2008 were colonized with MRSA; 72 of the children tested positive for the infection, 60% of whom harbored the community-acquired strain. Altogether, 75% of all MRSA carriers had no previous history of the infection. For the children, an MRSA infection resulted in “longer hospital stays (eight days) than MRSA-free patients (five days), and longer PICU stays (three days) than non-colonized patients (two days).”
An additional outcome of the study revealed that eight patients who were MRSA-free at the time of their admission to the PICU became colonized with the infection during their hospital stay. Half of these children later developed clinical signs of the infection, which means, according to the researchers, “that the other four would have never been identified as MRSA carriers if the hospital was not performing weekly screenings of all patients.”
According to Milstone, “MRSA has become so widespread in the community, that it’s become nearly impossible to predict which patients harbor MRSA on their body. Point-of-admission screening in combination with other preventive steps, like isolating the patient and using contact precaution, can help curb the spread of dangerous bacterial infections to other vulnerable patients.”
The researchers also noted that MRSA was more often seen in younger children, with an average age of three years, and among African American children, though the reasons for these disparities are unclear.