Tampa Bay Area Joins The Fight Against MRSA

A national study involving six local hospitals could answer a heated medical debate over how best to protect patients from the dangerous MRSA super bug.

Screening patients for MRSA and isolating those who have it is the most common strategy used today at hospitals. But it isn’t the most effective approach, researchers found in the study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Many more infections were prevented when the hospitals treated all intensive care patients — regardless of whether they had the MRSA bug — with an antimicrobial bath and nasal ointment.

This approach was tested at Largo Medical Center, one of the local institutions involved in the study through parent company Hospital Corporation of America, the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain.

The study involved 43 HCA hospitals and nearly 75,000 ICU patients, including those at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson, Brandon Regional Hospital, Medical Center of Trinity, South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center and Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.

The results could be a game changer in how hospitals combat MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacteria that is not easily treated with antibiotics.

It’s fairly harmless on the skin, but the bacteria can become deadly once it enters the bloodstream.

Hospital patients with open wounds and intravenous lines are especially vulnerable to severe infections, which have been blamed for as many as 19,000 U.S. deaths annually. More recent statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, indicate MRSA infections are declining, especially in hospital settings.

But it remains such a scourge that HCA plans to roll out the most effective treatment identified in the study as standard practice in the adult ICUs of its 156 hospitals nationally, including 38 in Florida.