Updated Guidelines for Skin, Soft Tissue Infections From IDSA

The spread of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus has led to a giant increase in the number of skin and soft tissue infections, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America. This surge of SSTIs led the IDSA to publish updated practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of the infections.

Visits to the emergency room for SSTIs nearly tripled from 1.2 million in 1995 to 3.4 million in 2005, and much of that increase is due to MRSA. More than 6 million physician office visits are attributable to SSTIs each year.

However, many of these infections either clear up without treatment or can be treated with incision and draining alone and do not require antibiotics.

The new guidelines, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, contain a chart to help clinicians diagnose and treat the SSTI based on whether or not it is purulent (producing boils or abscesses that contain pus). The guidelines can also help determine the severity of the infection.

The updated guidelines also exclusively provide recommendations for treating SSTIs in immunocompromised patients, which can be challenging because they likely have been exposed to many antibiotics and may be resistant to some medications.

"We've provided guidance to help physicians make the correct diagnosis, establish the source and cause and determine the severity of infection, which is crucial," said Dennis Stevens, MD, PhD, lead author of the guidelines, in a news release. "Antibiotics are life-saving drugs for many types of SSTIs, but should only be given when needed, and these guidelines will help physicians know when they are and are not necessary."

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