Whilst rates of MRSA and C. difficile have fallen over the last six years, other types of hospital superbugs like salmonella and E.coli are emerging to take their place.
Antibacterial hand gel has helped lower the rates of MRSA and C. difficle in hospitals
The Health Protection Agency has carried out a snapshot survey of 103 hospital trusts and more than 52,000 patients. It found that the total prevalence of Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) has decreased from 8.2 per cent to 6.4 per cent in 2011.
Much of this decrease was due to lower rates of MRSA and C. difficile. Thanks to stringent government campaigns, there was an 18-fold decline in overall MRSA infections (1.3% to 0.1%) and a five-fold decline in C. difficile infections (2.0% to 0.4%) between the 2006 and 2011 surveys.
However, of the 3,360 patients who had been diagnosed with an HCAI during the survey, a third of these were infected by bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli. 12 per cent of these infections were resistant to antibiotics.
Salmonella and E.coli are part of a group of bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae. The bacteria are found naturally in the environment and the human gut, and only cause a problem when they migrate to other sites in the body such as the respiratory or urinary system.
Most of the HCAIs developed during the patients' stays in the hospital. But a fifth of HCAIs were present on admission to hospital. Report author Dr Susan Hopkins said:
"Everyone has it, so we can't screen and get rid of it. We need to look at better hygiene to prevent infections."
Highest rates of salmonella and E.coli were found in intensive care, with 23.4 per cent of patients infected. Those with inserted devices such as catheters or having surgery are at the greatest risk.
Private hospitals had a lower HCAI rate than the NHS at 2.2 per cent compared to 6.4 per cent, because they do not treat emergencies, have fewer beds and shorter lengths of stay.
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