WEDNESDAY, Feb. 23, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- When treating children infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), thoroughly and quickly cleaning the wound is more critical than the kind of antibiotic used, new research suggests.
"The good news is that no matter which antibiotic we gave, nearly all skin infections cleared up fully within a week," study author Dr. Aaron Chen, an emergency physician at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, said in a university news release.
"The better news might be that good low-tech wound care -- cleaning, draining and keeping the infected area clean -- is what truly makes the difference between rapid healing and persistent infection," he added.
Chen and his colleagues published their findings in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The study included 191 children between 6 months and 18 years of age who were treated for a skin staph infection between 2006 and 2009 at the Children's Center. Nearly two-thirds of the patients (133) were infected with community-acquired MRSA, which is resistant to most common antibiotics, while the rest had simple non-resistant infections.
About half were given the antibiotic cephalexin, which is commonly used for non-resistant bacterial infections but not for MRSA. The other half were given clindamycin, which is known to be more effective against resistant infections.
The result: the choice of drug made little difference in outcome. At follow-ups conducted two to three days after treatment was initiated, children given either antibiotic appeared to fare equally well. Ultimately, nearly all (95 percent) of the children were infection-free within a week of being treated regardless of which antibiotic they had been given, the study authors reported.
Rather, it was good old-fashioned low-tech wound care that seemed to be the most important factor in the healing process, the authors determined.
The question then arises, are antibiotics needed at all?
"Many physicians understandably assume that antibiotics are always necessary for bacterial infections, but there is evidence to suggest this may not be the case," senior author Dr. George Siberry, a Hopkins pediatrician, noted in the news release.
"We need studies that precisely measure the benefit of antibiotics to help us determine which cases warrant them and which ones would fare well without them," Siberry suggested.
For more on MRSA, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.