According to the latest news from The Guardian, death certificates mentioning MRSA have fallen steadily in the past 5 years. The UK, known for its accurate and thorough reporting, has crunched us the facts to reveal patterns of decline, as noted in the graph below. In 2010, there were 485 reported deaths from MRSA – or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – whereas 2011 counted only 364, as released by the Office for National Statistics. The antibiotic resistant bacteria MRSA has in recent years been repeatedly targeted by government policies, and the attention has not gone unnoticed. A Welsh government spokesperson stressed the effort being made to lighten the bug’s yearly blow: “We will work with healthcare organisations to ensure that they have robust, sustainable infection prevention and control measures in place and that staff have the skills, knowledge and resources to provide care in a safe environment.” Just miles away, Simon Burns, England’s Health Minister praised that “The news that MRSA deaths are lower than at any point in the last 15 years is a testament to the hard work and dedication of NHS staff across the country.”
The UK’s reporting data on healthcare-associated infections is decidedly more reliable than many other countries, such as the US and Canada. While overall deaths in the UK have been declining, mortality rates, for both genders and both bacteria, have increased with age. Where males under 45 years suffer 2.3 deaths per million from S. aureus and 4.3 per million from MRSA, those over 85 are looking at a 230x and 96x increased risk of infection respectively. Females generate a similar pattern: there are, on average, 1.7 deaths per million for S. aureus and 0.5 per million for women under 45, but after 85, they are at a 150x and 395x increased risk of developing an infection. Another trend, surfacing in the preceding statistics, is that of consistently higher mortality rates among males than females. Where the UK male population’s MRSA decline has been by 20%, women have seen a 30% decline.
S. aureus has been noted 24% of the time as the underlying cause of death. In comparison, MRSA has been the culprit 17% of the time. The below graph shows the relatively stable proportions that have stuck with the bacteria.
Looking further into the bacterias regression, England and Wales’ health officials have perceived a social aspect. The disparity between the UK’s highest and lowest quintile is growing with respect to cases of MRSA. From 2001 to 2005, there were 6.7 fewer MRSA-related deaths per 100,000 in the least deprived quintile of England’s population than in the most deprived. From 2006 to 2010, that difference widened to 8.0 deaths. This increase in variation between the top and bottom quintiles is statistically significant, so much so that some wonder where all the aforementioned efforts are going. Deaths are down, but is inequality up?