Patients who ride ambulance more likely to get superbug infection, study suggests

Patients who arrive at the hospital via an ambulance are more likely to develop superbug colonization or infection, according to findings published July 21 in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Researchers from Durham, N.C.-based Duke University conducted a retrospective analysis of emergency department patients from 2016-19. They compared the relative risk of developing methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, or vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus, known as VRE, between those who took an ambulance to those who took a private vehicle. 

A total of 11,325 patients were included: 3,903 who arrived via ambulance and 7,421 who did not. Within 30 days, nine patients developed MRSA and three had VRE. Of those, eight infections occurred among patients in the ambulance group, while four occurred in the other study cohort. 

Overall, emergency department patients who arrived via ambulance were four times more likely to have an infection within 30 days of transport. 

"Our cohort study is the first to demonstrate an association between ambulance exposure and pathogen incidence, representing the first step in evaluating medical-transport-associated infection burden to eventually develop interventions to address it," researchers said.

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