1 in 12 Canadian adults in hospital have superbug: study

1 in 12 Canadian adults in hospital have superbug: study

Survey of 176 acute-care hospitals looked at MRSA, VRE and C. difficile

C. difficile bacteria, seen in this micgrograph image, can cause a range of symptoms, including diarrhea, fever, nausea and abdominal tenderness, the Public Health Agency of Canada says. In some cases, infections can be fatal. (Janice Carr/U.S. CDC/Canadian Press)

On any given day, about one in 12 adults in hospitals across Canada are either colonized or infected with a superbug, the first national survey to determine the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant organisms has found.

The survey of 176 acute-care hospitals looked at rates of infection or colonization in patients from three bacterial microbes that have become immune to the killing effects of most or all antibiotics — MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), VRE (vancomycin-resistant Enterococci) and Clostridium difficile.

Patients can carry, or be colonized by, a microbe like MRSA, but have no signs of active disease, while those who are infected are sick and have symptoms. (All patients with C. diff in the study were infected and had diarrhea and other symptoms.)

However, those who carry a bug can go on to become infected. For example, from one-quarter to one-third of patients colonized with MRSA become infected with the superbug, which can attack the skin and soft tissue, cause a form of pneumonia or invade the bloodstream. About 30 to 60 per cent of MRSA pneumonia patients and 20 to 40 per cent of those with MRSA bloodstream infections die.

The Canadian Press
Posted: May 13, 2013 6:50 PM ET