Malani Study on Hospital Infections (ABC News with video)

Study: Hospital Infections Kill 48,000 in U.S. Each Year
Joseph Brownstein
ABC News
February 23, 2010

Infections of sepsis and pneumonia  acquired in the hospital may kill 48,000 people each year, a new study shows.
An estimated 80% of infections caused by staph bacteria originate from patients.

Researchers examined hospital discharge records in 40 states between 1998 and 2006 in drawing their conclusions about the potential death toll from pneumonia and sepsis -- two of the most common hospital-acquired infections. They also calculated that these infections cost $8.1 billion to treat and lead to 2.3 million total days of hospitalization.

"It's something that deserves a much stronger response from public health authorities than it has [received] so far," said Ramanan Laxminarayan, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research on environmental, energy, natural resource and public health issues, and the study's lead author.

"We've known for a long time that people who go into hospitals for reasons other than an infection pick up an infection during the course of hospitalization and possibly die from that infection," he said.

If the projections are accurate, hospital-acquired infections of pneumonia and sepsis would account for more than 1 percent of all hospital spending in the United States, which was $718.4 billion in 2008, according to the most recent report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The hospital-acquired infection study appears in the most recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Anup Malani