Reports reflect a nationwide epidemic of MRSA in the US — one that has significantly increased over the past seven years. A 2007 report in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated that the number of MRSA infections treated in hospitals doubled nationwide, from approximately 127,000 in 1999 to 278,000 in 2005, while at the same time deaths increased from 11,000 to more than 17,000.
Worldwide, an estimated 2 billion people carry some form of S. aureus; of these, up to 53 million (2.7% of carriers) are thought to carry MRSA. In the United States, 95 million carry S. aureus in their noses; of these, 2.5 million (2.6% of carriers) carry MRSA. A population review conducted in three U.S. communities showed the annual incidence of CA-MRSA during 2001–2002 to be 18–25.7/100,000; most CA-MRSA isolates were associated with clinically relevant infections, and 23% of patients required hospitalization.
Cystic fibrosis patients are often treated with multiple antibiotics, which must be administered in a hospital setting. Frequent hospital visits can increase exposure to MRSA, potentially increasing the rate of life-threatening MRSA pneumonia in this group. The risk of cross-colonization has led to the increased use of isolation protocols among these patients. In a hospital setting, patients who have received fluoroquinolones are more likely to become colonized with MRSA;this is probably because many circulating strains of MRSA are fluoroquinolone resistant, which means that MRSA is able to colonize patients whose normal skin flora have been cleared of non-resistant S. aureus by fluoroquinolones.
In the United States, there have been increasing numbers of reports of outbreaks of MRSA colonization and infection through skin contact in locker rooms and gymnasiums, even among healthy populations. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine linked MRSA to the abrasions caused by artificial turf. Three studies by the Texas State Department of Health found that the infection rate among football players was 16 times the national average. In December of 2007, a high school football player died from MRSA-infected turf burns.MRSA has also been found in the public school systems throughout the country.
MRSA is also becoming a problem in pediatric settings, including hospital nurseries. A 2007 study found that 4.6% of patients in U.S. health care facilities were infected or colonized with MRSA. One 2008 study concluded that men living in predominately gay ZIP codes in San Francisco are 13 times more likely to be infected by one strain of MRSA than their heterosexual neighbors.
MRSA causes as many as 20% of Staphylococcus aureus infections in populations that use intravenous drugs. These out-of-hospital strains, or CA-MRSA, are more easily treated, though more virulent, than HA-MRSA. CA-MRSA apparently did not evolve de novo in the community but represents a hybrid between MRSA that spread from the hospital environment and strains that were once easily treatable in the community. Most of the hybrid strains also acquired a factor that increases their virulence, resulting in the development of deep-tissue infections from minor scrapes and cuts, as well as many cases of fatal pneumonia.
As of early 2005, the number of deaths in the United Kingdom attributed to MRSA has been estimated by various sources to lie in the area of 3,000 per year. Staphylococcus bacteria account for almost half of all UK hospital infections. The issue of MRSA infections in hospitals has recently been a major political issue in the UK, playing a significant role in the debates over health policy in the United Kingdom general election held in 2005.
On January 6, 2008, half of 64 non-Chinese cases of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococus aureus (MRSA) infections in Hong Kong in 2007 were Filipino domestic helpers. Ho Pak-leung, professor of microbiology, University of Hong Kong traced the cause from high use of antibiotics. In 2007, there were 166 community cases in Hong Kong compared with 8,000 hospital-acquired MRSA (155 recorded cases — 91 involved Chinese locals, 33 Filipinos, 5 each for Americans and Indians, and 2 each from Nepal, Australia, Denmark and England).