Golden staph bloodstream infections continue to fall in Australian public hospitals

The national rate of Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections (SABSI) in public hospitals remains under the benchmark, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Staphylococcus aureus or ‘golden staph’ bacteria are commonly found on the skin and in the nose. However, a serious infection may occur if this bacteria enters a person’s bloodstream. These infections can be associated with hospital care and are often related to the use of indwelling medical devices, or surgery.

The report, Bloodstream infections associated with hospital care 2019­–20, shows that there were 1,428 cases of SABSI reported in Australian public hospitals in 2019–20, down from 1,573 cases in 2018–19.

‘Over the past 5 years, the SABSI rate has fluctuated around 0.7 cases per 10,000 days of patient care, for instance, 0.74 in 2015–16 and 0.71 in 2019–20,‘

‘As such, there is no clear indication that this rate has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic either positively or negatively,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Heather Swanston.

Rates of SABSI 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.

‘These rates ranged from 0.81 per 10,000 days of patient care in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory to 0.34 in the Northern Territory,’ said Dr. Swanston.

Rates were higher than the national average in Major, large and children’s hospitals. These hospitals generally provide a very broad range of services, including a number of highly specialised and complex services, and are more likely to treat patients who may be at a high risk of getting a SABSI.

‘More than 8 in 10 (83%) cases were able to be treated with commonly used antibiotics,’ Dr. Swanston said.

‘Over the 5 years to 2019–20, the proportion of cases resistant to common antibiotics decreased from 19% to 17%.’

Dr. Swanston noted the national benchmark changed to 1.0 cases per 10,000 patient days from 1 July 2020, which reflects and promotes improvements to SABSI rates across Australia. This benchmark will be included in future SABSI reporting from the AIHW.

As part of today’s release, the AIHW has also updated hospital-specific counts and rates of golden staph infections on the MyHospitals online platform.

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