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Both the number of cases and the rates of Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia (SAB) - or 'golden staph'-have fallen in Australian public hospitals, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

'SAB is a serious bloodstream infection that can be associated with hospital care,' said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

The report, Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia in Australian public hospitals 2014-15: Australian hospital statistics, shows that between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the number of SAB cases reported in Australian public hospitals decreased by 21%, from 1,876 to 1,490 cases.

Over the same period, the national rate of SAB infections decreased from 1.10 cases to 0.77 cases per 10,000 days of patient care. This was below the national benchmark of no more than 2.0 SAB cases per 10,000 days of patient care.

'All states and territories recorded rates below the national benchmark,' Ms Hargreaves said.

Rates were higher than the national average in Principal referral hospitals - that is, hospitals that provide a very broad range of services, including some highly specialised services where there is a greater likelihood of SAB risk than at other hospitals.

Overall, the majority (78%) of SAB cases were treatable with commonly used antibiotics, while the remainder (22%) were antibiotic resistant.

'The number of cases that were antibiotic resistant fell between 2010-11 and 2014-15-from 505 to 331 cases,' Ms Hargreaves said.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 18 December

Further information:Ms Jenny Hargreaves, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1121; mob. 0407 012 520

Full publication: Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia in Australian public hospitals 2014-15: Australian hospital statistics