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‘Super Bug’ May Thrive in Homes Where Kids Have Staph Infections

People in the homes of children with skinand soft-tissue infections caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus have a higher rate of methicillin-resistant S. aureus colonization than the general population, a new study finds.

S. aureus infection often is referred to as Staph infection. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) — a serious public-health issue — is a contagious, antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria that causes difficult-to-treat infections in humans.

This study included 183 children with S. aureus skin and tissue infections and colonization in the nose, armpit and/or groin area, and more than 600 of their household contacts, defined as people who spent more than half their time each week in the child’s home.

More than half of the household contacts were colonized with S. aureus, and 21 percent were colonized with MRSA, compared with an MRSA colonization rate of 0.8 percent to 1.5 percent in the general population, said Dr. Stephanie Fritz and colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Of the 183 patients, 61 percent were colonized with MRSA, 30 percent with methicillin-sensitive S. aureus (MSSA) and 9 percent with both forms. Of the household contacts, 53 percent were colonized with S. aureus. Of those colonized with the bacteria, 36 percent had MRSA, 60 percent had MSSA and 4 percent had both.

Among the patients’ household contacts, parents were most likely to be colonized with MRSA. The researchers also found that the groin area was a major site of MRSA colonization.

The study was published June 4 in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The researchers noted in a journal news release that household members of patients with S. aureus infections are not routinely checked for S. aureus colonization. Shared objects and surfaces in the home are potential reservoirs for S. aureus transmission, and the failure to identify all household members with colonization may result in constant colonization or repeated infections.

It is not known, however, if routine household sampling or decolonization would be practical or cost-effective, the study authors concluded.