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7 in 10 Ambulances Positive for Staph Isolates

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 30, 2012

Drug-resistant strains of infectious bacteria are hitching a ride into hospitals through an under-appreciated path—the ambulance—according to a sample of 71 Chicago-area emergency response vehicles.

The researchers, led by James Rago of the Lewis University Department of Biology in Romeoville and members of the Orland Fire Protection District in Illinois, obtained samples from 26 sites in 71 ambulances from 34 Chicago area municipalities.

They found at least one isolate of Staphyloccocus aureus in 69% of all ambulances, and 77% showed resistance to at least one antibiotic, and one-third were resistant to two or more.

Ampicillin resistant strains were most common, found in 74% of all isolates, although 70% showed resistance to erythromycin.  However, 12 of the samples,  from only five of the 71 ambulances, tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which Rago said was somewhat reassuring.

Rago said that the study should prompt paramedic service personnel to pay more "meticulous attention to proper ambulance cleaning by the prehospital emergency care community."

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