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A government study to be published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, finds that so-called MRSA ‘superbugs’ are twice as common as was previously thought. Nearly 19,000 people died in 2005 after becoming infected with drug-resistant bacteria in hospitals and nursing homes.

Beginning in 1970, doctor began to observe infections that weren’t easily treatable with typical antibiotics. This period heralded the arrival of ‘superbugs’.

The study determined that an alarming 85% of invasive MRSA infection, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, were caused by health care treatment. This happens when bacteria are carried around by health care workers from patient to patient.

The results from the government study are likely to generate more discussion over testing patients on hospital admission for MRSAs. Some research suggests that hospitals that quarantine patients with MRSAs and use special clothes for each contact may reduce infection rates.

The major importance of this government study was its reliance on actual cases of MRSA infection. Researchers estimate that nearly 95,000 people developed a MRSA of some sort in 2005.

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