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Antibiotic use aids MRSA spread in hospital and infection control measures do little to prevent it, says hospital study

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The use of a commonly prescribed antibiotic is a major contributor to the spread of infection in hospitals by the ‘superbug’ MRSA, according to new research. The study also found that increasing measures to prevent infection – such as improved hygiene and hand washing – appeared to have only a small effect on reducing MRSA infection rates during the period studied.

MRSA – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – is a bacteria that causes hospital-acquired infection and is resistant to all of the penicillin-type antibiotics frequently used in hospitals to prevent and treat infection. It can cause serious infections of the skin, blood, lungs and bones.

The researchers – led by St George’s, University of London – tracked MRSA infection over 10 years from 1999 to 2009 at St George’s Hospital, looking at how it has adapted to survive in a hospital environment and at factors that affected its prevalence. They found that a significant drop in MRSA rates coincided with a reduction in hospital prescriptions of ciprofloxacin, the most commonly prescribed antibiotic of the fluoroquinolone family.

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