When a person develops a bacterial infection, healthcare workers usually provide antibiotics to help fight the infection. But some bacteria have adapted and can fight off the antibiotics.
A recent study found that one of the strongest of these antibiotic fighting bugs continues to affect children, especially babies under 3 months old.
The bacteria is called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. Methicillin is the name of the antibiotic that the bacteria is able to fight.
Rates of MRSA infections in children that began in the general community have increased over five years.
The highest rates occurred among babies younger than 3 months and among black children.
This study, led by Martha Iwamoto, MD, MPH, of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), looked at infection rates of the invasive antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA from 2005 to 2010.
The researchers used data from a program called the Active Bacterial Core Surveillance system. This system was set up in July 2004 with populations from nine geographically diverse US counties to actively track MRSA infections.
The combined population includes approximately 4.4 million children under age 18 from California, Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Washington and Tennessee.
From 2005 to 2010, a total of 876 cases of MRSA infections among children were reported, including 340 (39 percent) among babies.
Of these, a little over a third of the cases (35 percent) began in a hospital, 23 percent began in another health care-related community setting and 42 percent occurred in the general community.
The rate of infections occurring in the community increased from 1.1 per 100,000 children in 2005 to 1.7 per 100,000 children in 2010, which was a 10 percent increase in infections.
The researchers did not find any changes in the rate of MRSA infections among children in hospitals or other health care settings.
In 2010, the most affected population included babies under 3 months old, who suffered MRSA infections at a rate of 44 per 100,000 babies.
Older babies and children had MRSA infections at a rate of 2 per 100,000 children.
In addition, black children were more likely to develop a MRSA infection with a rate of 6.7 per 100,000 children, compared to a rate of 1.6 per 100,000 children among other races.
"In contrast to reports of declining incidence among adults, there were no significant reductions in health care–associated MRSA infections in children," the researchers wrote.
"Concurrently, the incidence of community-associated MRSA infections has increased, underscoring the need for defining optimal strategies to prevent MRSA infections among children with and without health care exposures," they wrote.
Chris Galloway, a dailyRx expert who specializes in emergency medicine, said he has seen MRSA throughout his career and has seen more and more each year in adults and kids.
"Ten years ago, MRSA often was only seen in chronically ill and/or hospitalized patients, what we call hospital-acquired MRSA, and mostly seen in adults," he said.
"We now have community-acquired MRSA that affects not only adults, but also children, and it is serious and on the rise," Dr. Galloway said. "These infections often require multiple antibiotics, hospitalization and often surgery to drain abscesses that can develop from this bacteria."
Dr. Galloway said that parents should call their child's pediatrician at the first sign of a rash that is painful or any rash associated with a fever.
"MRSA can be transferred amongst family members, and also within schools and daycares, so ask questions and be informed," he said.
This study was published September 23 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded through a cooperative agreement with the Emerging Infections Programs of the CDC. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.