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Golden staph in retreat

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The national rate of golden staph infections in Australia’s public hospitals has dropped since the beginning of the decade, according to the latest figures, signalling that infection control measures are improving.

And the number of cases which were not treatable with common antibiotics has also fallen, the figures show.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report Australian hospital statistics 2012-13 shows the national rate of Staphyloccous aureus bacteraemia (SAB), or golden staph, dropped from 1.1 to 0.9 cases per 10,000 patient days between 2010-11 and 2012-13.

“Rates dropped in New South Wales and the Northern Territory, rose in the Australian Capital Territory, and fluctuated or remained about the same in other states,” said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

Importantly, in 2012-13, all states and territories had rates of golden staph infection below the national benchmark of 2 cases per 10,000 patient days.

“However, some variation is seen between the states and territories,” Ms Hargreaves said.

Golden staph rates ranged from 0.7 per 10,000 patient days in the Northern Territory to 1.3 per 10,000 patient days in the ACT.

Most (77 per cent) of the 1724 cases of golden staph reported in Australian public hospitals were treatable with commonly used antibiotics. The number of cases that weren’t treatable with commonly used antibiotics has dropped in the past three years.

The latest report comes after Australia’s Health Ministers, in 2008, ordered all hospitals in their relevant jurisdictions to report golden staph cases to form a national data collection. It presents the second year of nationally consistent information on cases of golden staph associated with public hospitals in Australia.

Golden staph rates were also named in 2008 as one of the key performance indicators to be reported under the National Healthcare Agreement.

SAB, a serious bloodstream infection, is considered an important cause of health care-associated infection, causing significant illness and death. It is also considered to be potentially preventable.

Because of its significant public health impacts, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has put in place a number of initiatives to target and reduce the incidence of SAB infection.

They include the National Antimicrobial Stewardship Initiative that assesses current antibiotic surveillance processes in Australia; the National Hand Hygiene Initiative; the development with the National Health and Medical Research Council of National Infection Control Guidelines; and the Building Clinician Capacity Initiative which provides toolkits for clinical staff working in infection control and prevention roles.

Debra Vermeer