THERE are rising concerns within medical circles of a probable epidemic in the local hospital community, of one of the most dreaded hospital-acquired contagions called Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, (MRSA). These concerns arose following numerous reports of increased cases of the bacterial infection in a growing number hospitals within Lagos metropolis.
Investigations by Good Health Weekly revealed that reported cases of the infection, commonly referred to as “hospital infection”, are not confined to a particular category of health institutions, but rather, cut across all private and public hospitals from primary healthcare centres through General Hospitals to the Teaching Hospitals. Although officials from some of the affected hospitals declined to comment on the development, it was reliably gathered that patients who have undergone one form of surgery or the other, are more susceptible to the infection also known as “staph”.
Experts also urge strict precautions such as wearing a mask when working
with people with weakened immune systems.
Specifically at risk are patients diagnosed with what is termed in medical parlance as “bloodstream infections” as well as surgical procedures for orthopaedic, cardiothoracic (chest), plastic surgery or neurosurgery (brain surgery) and other “surgical site infections”, all of who were observed to be recording unusually high number of “staph” infections. MRSA (pronounced “mersa”), is perhaps the commonest manifestations of antibiotic resistance, and is described as one of the “three greatest threats to human health” by the World Health Organisation. The causative bacteria is known for causing skin infections in addition to many other types of infections. Statistical data suggest that thousands of people per year die from MRSA annually and may be on the increase partly as a result of poor prevention practices at hospitals. Medical literature notes that MRSA was first noted in 1961, about two years after methicillin- an antibiotic, was initially used to treat the S. aureus and other infectious bacteria. The resistance to methicillin was due to a penicillin-binding protein and in recent years, the gene has continued to evolve so that many MRSA strains are currently resistant to several different antibiotics such as penicillin, cloxacillin, and amoxicillin. There are also strains resistant to tetracycline, erythromycin and clindamycin. Information by Mayo Clinic.com notes that S. aureus is sometimes termed a “superbug” because of their ability to be resistant to several antibiotics. An endocrinologist at a public hospital who pleaded anonymity, stated that MRSA is created when bacteria become “familair” to the presence of an antibiotic and develop into “superbugs” that can survive and thrive in the presence of that same drug. “The more you use an antibiotic and expose certain organisms to it, the more likely there will be resistance.” Doctors say indiscriminate use or overuse of antibiotics promote antibiotic resistance which often develops from use of “remnants” of “old” antibiotic prescriptions for one patient or from others.” The two major ways people become infected with MRSA is through direct physical contact with someone who is either infected or is a carrier, or through indirect contact with objects such as door handles, floors, sinks, or towels that have been touched by a MRSA-infected person or carrier. People with higher risk of MRSA infection are those with obvious skin breaks (such as patients with surgical or traumatic wounds or hospital patients with intravenous lines, burns, or skin ulcers) and people with depressed immune systems and chronic diseases (diabetes or cancer). People with pneumonia (lung infection) due to MRSA can transmit it by airborne droplets. Health-care workers as a group are repeatedly exposed to MRSA-positive patients and can have a high rate of infection if precautions are not taken. Consequently, health-care workers and patient visitors are urged to use disposable masks, gowns, and gloves to minimize cross transmission.