One in 12 babies pick up dangerous new infections in hospital
13:08 GMT, 23 May 2012
One in 12 babies and toddlers picked up an infection while they were treated in hospital last autumn, according to the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency.
The snapshot survey of more than 50,000 patients found that one in 20 children under five contracted dangerous bugs but that younger tots were more at risk.
Vulnerable: Babies and the elderly had the highest risk of catching an infection in hospital
Overall the study found that around one in 15 patients caught an infection while they were being treated.
Among the most common conditions were respiratory such as pneumonia, urinary tract and surgical site infections.
The data, which was collected by hospital teams between October and November last year, revealed that 3,360 patients were diagnosed with an active healthcare-associated infection (HCAI), and 135 experienced more than one.
However, this overall infection rate of 6.4 per cent was down from 8.2 per cent reported in a similar survey in 2006.
Infection prevalence was highest among infants and the elderly. It was also highest in intensive care units, where 23.4 per cent of patients were affected.
Since 2006, there had been an 18-fold reduction in rates of infection by the superbug MRSA, thanks to a Government hand-washing campaign.
Clostridium difficile infection rates have also reduced five-fold from two per cent to 0.4 per cent.
However, experts have recently warned that many bugs are becoming resistant to antibiotics due to over-prescription.
U.S researchers reported in the American Society for Microbiology this month that a deadly strain of MRSA known as CC5 has now become resistant to a last-line antibiotic.
MRSA rates have fallen about a Government-led hand washing campaign. However, one in 15 patients still catch an infection in hospital
Dr Susan Hopkins, healthcare epidemiologist at the HPA and lead author of the report, said: 'It gives us a clear picture of the different types of infections that are occurring in hospitals and the bugs that cause them.
'Knowing exactly what is causing problems enables hospital Trusts to adopt the best strategies to deal with them.'
Professor Anthony Kessel, director of public health strategy and medical director at the HPA, said: 'There have been great results achieved in reducing the levels of MRSA and C. difficile over the last five years in the NHS and these can be seen in the figures reported today.
'These have been accomplished through national policies and guidelines and changes to infection control. There are now new challenges to meet and I am sure that hospitals will be equally as vigilant in addressing these.'