Antibiotic-resistant staph infection continues to plague the medical community but scientists are beginning to understand how it spreads. Big city hospitals act as a gateway for staph infection to spread to smaller hospitals.

The superbug is called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and is resistant to most type of antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin. The majority of MRSA infections occur in hospitals or other healthcare settings.  The discovery that MRSA spreads from large city hospitals to smaller hospitals could help reduce the spread of MRSA.

Dr. Ross Fitzgerald, of the The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, led the study that looked at the genetic profile of 80 varieties of MRSA. Researchers tracked how MRSA mutated and tracked the new variations across Scotland.

Large city hospitals are full of patients and this helps MRSA spread from patient to patient. A person may visit a large city hospital to get treatment but may visit a hospital closer to home for other reasons. This allows MRSA to travel from the city into the county.

MRSA infections have been a global concern for the past 50 years but recent trends have been encouraging. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA infections have been falling in America in recent years. MRSA infections in hospitalized patients have decreased by 50 percent from 1997 to 2007. Life-threatening MRSA infections have decreased by 28 percent from 2005 to 2008.

Hospitals are a great place for MRSA to spread because patients may come into contact with other patients with skin infections and discarded bandages or towels may also be the source of infection. Athletes are also at risk for MRSA infection and locker rooms are another popular breeding ground for MRSA.

Reducing the spread of MRSA is easier said than done. Proper cleaning and disinfection can help reduce the spread of MRSA as can the use of sanitizers to kill germs. Regular laundry procedures can also reduce the spread of MRSA. While cleaning procedures are followed in hospitals and in athletic facilities, exposure to MRSA may have already occurred without the person knowing.

Dr. Fitzgerald believes that reducing patient transfer from large hospitals to smaller hospitals can help ease the global problem of MRSA along with proper cleaning procedures. 

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.