(NaturalNews) It's scary enough to have a newborn baby in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) because he or she is premature or has health problems. But now there's reason to worry that many NICUs, places that are supposed to be dedicated to healing and protecting the youngest and most fragile of babies, are actually dangerous environments for neonates. According to a new study just published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, superbug infections -- specifically antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections -- in US NICUs increased over 300 percent in less than ten years.
Researchers Dr. Fernanda C. Lessa and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used a national database on hospital-acquired infections and analyzed data voluntarily reported by NICUs between the years of 1995 and 2004. In all, the study involved information collected on nearly 5.9 million patient-days in 149 NICUs across the country.
In newborns, infections that occur during the first three days of life are most often acquired during labor and delivery. On the other hand, late-onset infections, defined as infections that developed more than three days after a child was born, are known to be primarily transmitted by parents, doctors, nurses and other health care personnel. The investigators focused on late-onset infections and found that out of about 4,400 Staph infections with antibiotic resistance, 23 percent were found to be the result of a MRSA superbug.
From 1995 to 2004, the rate of late-onset MRSA infections soared from less than one for every 10,000 hospital days to three infections per 10,000 hospital days -- an enormous increase of 308 percent. The types of MRSA infections were not found to change during the years studied. About 30 percent involved bloodstream infections. Other frequent kinds of MRSA infections that were identified included pneumonia and eye infections (conjunctivitis).
For some reason, the steepest rise in MRSA infections occurred after 2002. While the tiniest babies with extremely low birth weights of 1,000 grams (about 35 ounces) had the sharpest increase in MRSA infections, the superbug infection rate actually rose in all birth weight groups.
The ever increasing rate of superbugs has become a worldwide public health problem, with Staph bacteria developing resistance to commonly used antibiotics. MRSA infections have increasingly been found within communities and not just in hospitals. However, in the new study the Staph strains found in NICUs were clearly in the class of superbugs responsible for hospital-acquired infections, not those which have been reported in the non-medical community setting.
So what's the bottom line result of the study? According to researchers Dr. Fernanda C. Lessa and colleagues at the CDC there is clearly a need for healthcare workers to follow routine infection control steps that are already well-known to be effective in preventing the spreading of MRSA infections. They aren't high tech chemicals or vaccines, either. Instead, the most important is simple hand washing.
As reported earlier in Natural News (http://www.naturalnews.com/023571_bacteria_superbugs_health.html), one approach to fighting superbugs in hospitals has already backfired. A study showed that instead of killing potentially dangerous infections, disinfectant wipes may actually spread drug-resistant and sometimes deadly bacteria.
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.
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