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Golden staph: the deadly bug that wreaks havoc in hospitals

Golden staph: the deadly bug that wreaks havoc in hospitals

Frank Bowden, Professor at Australian National University Medical School; Senior Staff Specialist Infectious Diseases at ACT Health asks:

"Which of the following conditions would you prefer to have during your next stay in hospital?

A. Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) bloodstream infection

B. a heart attack"

Some quotes from the article:

"The disturbing truth is that a Staph aureus bloodstream infection has a 12-month death rate of between 20 and 35%, compared with 3-5% for a heart attack in hospital.


Very sick patients often require long-term intravenous access through central venous catheters (which are inserted into a large vein at the chest, neck or groin). These carry a higher risk of infection than small peripheral cannulas, usually inserted in veins of the hand or arm.


Patients with burns, cancer, HIV and those who have undergone surgery are considered to be more vulnerable to infection.


While these data (around 1 per 10,000 patient bed days in Australia - Neil) show that the risk of Staph aureus infection for an individual patient is low, when considered across the entire health system it reveals an important and costly problem.


These figures only relate to infections that have been acquired in a health-care setting. Staph aureus can also originate in people in the community who have had no contact with the health system and these infections also carry a high risk of death.


One important reason for the reduction is the increasing compliance of health-care workers with hand hygiene. The most recent data from Hand Hygiene Australia show that average compliance in Australian hospitals is now 81.9% across the five “moments” of hand hygiene. Even my recalcitrant doctor colleagues have lifted their game – from an average of 59.6% in 2011, they have now reached 70.2% (which, I am ashamed to say, is still 15.3% behind our much cleaner nursing colleagues)."

Obviously, given we have a cancer that also compromises our immune system, along with the fact that some of our treatments require intravenous access (e.g. most chemotherapy treatments, IVIG), the CLL community is at particular risk. You might wonder what, if anything, you can do to reduce your chances of hospital acquired (nosocomial) infections. In some countries, you may be able to check published comparative statistics for nosocomial infections for hospitals near you. But you can best lower your risk by ensuring you have regular soapy showers in hospital (and at home too) to minimise the likelihood of golden staph residing on your skin and encouraging doctors and nurses with their adherence to best practice with the five “moments” of hand hygiene.


Photo: Egret and duck face-off, with the egret obviously considering itself above the lowly duck. Just after this photo was taken, the duck gave the egret a warning hiss.

3 Replies

Technical... but comprehensive


Interesting and instructive - does anyone have the figures for the UK hospital handwashing statistics?

PS My money's on the duck!


I agree - hospital hygiene needs to be taken much more seriously...

But how do they get these statistics? Would doctors and nurses be completely honest, if asked how often they wash their hands? Even if a survey/questionnaire was anonymous, I'm not sure that everyone would be give a correct answer. But I guess it shows a general trend...


P.S. My money's on the egret!


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