A new study from the Australian National University (ANU) has revealed that the amount of staph infections resistant to antibiotic intervention has increased at an alarming rate over the past decade.
Staph infection outbreaks occurred mostly in hospitals at an 11.5 per cent rate in the early 2000s. Today this figure has increased to 56.9 per cent.
The study also found that outbreaks of staph infections are now occurring out in the community and are not limited to healthcare settings.
Staphylococcus (staph) infections are caused by skin-to-skin contact and symptoms can vary from the mild to the serious. Symptoms can be caused by the disease directly infecting the patient or by the staph bacteria producing toxins throughout the body. Localised staph infection symptoms include boils, pus, red and swollen skin and abscess’. Severe staph infections can result in death.
According to the study, those most at risk of developing the disease are young people, Indigenous Australians and residents of aged-care facilities. Staph infections are often caused by bad hygiene practices. Lead researcher Dr Jason Agostino from the ANU Medical School believes it is our modern reliance on antibiotics that has contributed to the increase in staph infection occurrences.
“The problem of infections resistant to antibiotics in our community is not just a theoretical problem that will happen sometime in the future – it’s happening right now,” Dr Agostino said to The Age.
“We’re a high antibiotic-using society and we are getting bugs that are developing resistance.”
Until the 2000s, research suggested that resistant staph infections primarily occurred in healthcare settings, now research reveals that hospital staph infection rates are decreasing. Dr Agostino believes that more of a focus on monitored antibiotic use in communities is something Australia need to work on to improve staph infection rates.
“It’s great to see a drop in drug-resistant staph infections in hospitals, but we need to develop more targeted use of antibiotics in the community,” he said.
“We also need to improve the way we share data on antibiotic resistance to staph infections and link this to hospitalisation across health systems.”
This assertion is further backed up by the fact that 60 per cent of the drug resistant staph infection strains tested in the study were picked up in the community and not in a hospital setting.