A Critical and Expensive Problem
MRSA is a bacterium responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans. MRSA is any strain of Staphylococcus aureus (“SA”) that has developed a resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics, including the penicillins such as methicillin, dicloxacillin, nafcillin, oxacillin, and also the cephalosporins group. MRSA infection cannot be effectively treated with these standard antibiotic types and is accordingly more dangerous than SA, which can. The acronym MRSA is still commonly used even though methicillin is no longer used for treatment and the acronym ORSA (oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) may be used interchangeably with MRSA.
MRSA is a particular danger in clinical settings, such as hospitals and care homes. Patients with open wounds, invasive devices and weakened immune systems are an increased risk of infection. Patients contracting MRSA are likely to spend three times as long in a hospital stay at three times the cost, and are five times more likely to die than an uninfected patient, and twice as likely to die as a SA infected patient.
MRSA has been estimated to be responsible for an estimated 19,000 U.S. deaths and 368,000 hospitalizations per year.
The direct costs of Hospital Acquired Infections (“HAIs”), of which MRSA is a major constituent at around 40%, has been estimated annually at;
- $6.5 billion
- 99,000 Deaths
- €7.0 billion
- 37,000 Deaths
- £1.0 billion
- 5,000 Deaths
The high financial toll on private and public health care systems by MRSA is therefore a critical issue for healthcare providers and authorities. A considerable and expensive effort is accordingly directed at hygiene, deep cleaning and early identification of infected patients. Patients may be pre-screened for MRSA, surfaces are sanitized and hand-washing regimes are implemented.
A patient may be tested for MRSA/SA infection with a lab test from cultured samples, involving extensive incubation times of 24 hours or more and a 2-3 day result turnaround.
More expensive tests are also available with shorter (just hours) turnaround times.
Electronic “nose” devices do exist to detect bacteria from cultures, such as the Airsense system installed on the International Space Station, and the Cyranose system, which can detect eye infective bacteria. However, these devices are relatively bulky and are prohibitively expensive to universally install.
There is currently no cost effective system that acts like a “Presence Alarm” for MRSA/SA, detecting infection early, in the patient or in the rooms of a healthcare building.