Another Death From
Untreatable Staph
By Mike Cooper
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Federal health officials said on Thursday they were counting the death of a 63-year-old woman in an Illinois hospital last May as the fourth reported U.S. case of a staph germ resistant to traditional antibiotics.
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the unidentified woman, who suffered from renal failure, had been infected with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that resisted vancomycin, the drug of last resort.
Staphylococcus bacteria are commonly found on the skin without producing any illness, but they can sometimes cause invasive diseases in the bloodstream or heart valves. The woman in Illinois had undergone a number of medical and surgical procedures that increased her risk of infection.
``She had had many courses of vancomycin treatment, which tends to promote the emergence of the resistant strains,'' said Julie Gerberding, director of the centers' hospital infections program.
The centers said the emergence of vancomycin resistance increased the possibility that some staph strains would become fully resistant to the antimicrobial agents traditionally used to kill bacteria.
The first documented case of vancomycin-resistant staph occurred in a Japanese child in 1996. The first U.S. cases were reported one year later.
Researchers said the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria had in part been caused by doctors who too often prescribed antibiotics to patients with viruses such as those that cause colds and flu. Viruses are immune to antibiotics.
The centers said prompt identification and reporting of vancomycin-resistant staphylococci was the single most important tool for identifying antibiotic resistance.
``In hospital settings, because it's such a hardy organism, it can easily be transmitted from one patient to another. Outbreaks can occur if proper infection-control procedures are not followed,'' Gerberding said.
The agency, however, noted that a survey of 369 microbiology laboratories in eight states found that only 59 percent did routine confirmatory testing for vancomycin resistance in staph infections


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