Golden staph bloodstream infection rate stable in Australia’s public hospitals

Australia is beating a national target for reducing golden staph bloodstream infections associated with public hospitals, with the infection rate remaining stable for the past 5 years, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections—known as SAB infections or ‘golden staph’—is a serious bloodstream infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The condition can be associated with hospital care—especially with surgical and other invasive procedures, although not all cases are acquired in hospital.

The report, Bloodstream infections associated with hospital care 2018–19, shows that there were 1,573 cases of SAB infections reported in Australian public hospitals in 2018­­–19, up from 1,491 cases in 2017­­–18.

‘The SAB infection rate was 0.75 cases per 10,000 patient days in 2018­­–19, similar to the rate of 0.79 cases in 2014–15,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Adrian Webster.

'Rates of SAB infections differed among the states and territories, but all jurisdictions had rates below the national benchmark of 2.0 cases per 10,000 days of patient care.

‘Rates ranged from 0.47 per 10,000 days of patient care in the Northern Territory to 0.85 per 10,000 days of patient care in Western Australia.

Major, large and children's hospitals can be more likely to treat patients at risk of SAB infections than other hospitals, and therefore tend to have higher proportions of SAB infection cases and higher SAB infection rates. Over half of all SAB infection cases occurred in major hospitals.

‘Overall, the majority (82%) of SAB infections were treatable with commonly used antibiotics, while the remainder (18%) were antibiotic resistant,’ Dr. Webster said.

The proportion of cases treatable with commonly used antibiotics increased from 78% to 82% in the five years to 2018–19.

The number of SAB infections that were antibiotic resistant fell between 2014–15 and 2018–19—from 331 to 277 cases.

‘In hospitals, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria are most commonly transmitted via the hands of healthcare workers,’ Dr. Webster said.

‘There are many initiatives in place to reduce the occurrence of SAB infections and other hospital acquired infections, including the National Hand Hygiene Initiative, which aims to educate and promote standardised hand hygiene practice in all Australian hospitals.’

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