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Better Testing Shields Hospitalized Kids From 'Superbugs'

Screening targets drug-resistant staph and enteroccocus, experts explain

WEDNESDAY, April 18, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Aggressive screening for two antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" in children should cut infection risks, say experts at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

They began such a testing program in March, after a study found that more thorough screening reduced the risk of infection and the spread of the bacteria.

All children admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit are now carefully checked for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE). This goes well beyond standard hospital practices, where tests for these bacteria are only ordered after a young patient develops symptoms or shows signs of early infection, Hopkins officials said.

The hospital already had a screening program for adults admitted to intensive care units.

While infections caused by MRSA and VRE are rarely fatal, people with these bacteria are at greater risk for dangerous infections.

The new screening program for young intensive care patients was prompted by a Hopkins study last year that found that weekly screening was much more effective than conducting tests for the bacteria only after a patient develops skin rash, fever or pain.

The four-month study of 330 patients in the pediatric intensive care unit found that weekly swab testing and bacterial growth cultures detected six times more patients with VRE and one-and-a-half times more patients with MRSA than routine testing.

The study was presented this week at the annual meeting of the Society of Health Care Epidemiology of America in Baltimore.

More information

MedlinePlus has more about MRSA.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, April 16, 2007
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