Some 1,500 people died of antibiotic-resistant infections in Israeli hospitals last year, a seven percent rise since 2009, the Health Ministry said in a recently released report.
The data do not show whether the infections were acquired in the hospital, but previous research indicates that more than two-thirds of infections are transmitted in medical centers, said Yehuda Carmeli of the epidimiology unit at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital.
"From the reports that come in, we don't know where the hospitalized patients were infected," said Carmeli, who also heads the Health Ministry's national unit for preventing infection in medical centers.
He cited E. coli as a particularly problematic strain of bacteria, liable to cause urinary tract infections in young pregnant women.
The infection rate for the antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli, which is spread primarily outside of medical centers, rose by 11.5 percent among hospitalized patients between 2009 and 2010, the ministry report found.
"The conditions of the Israeli health system and the infection-prevention infrastructure in the hospitals and [medical] institutions make it difficult to contend with this important mortality factor," wrote the authors of the report.
Some hospitals - including Ichilov, Beilinson in Petah Tikva, and Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva - already have units dedicated to preventing infection, and the report called for such units to be created at every hospital in the country.
In addition to E. coli, other bacterial infections that are difficult to treat include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (also known as MRSA ), Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter and Klebsiella.
There has, however, been a 20 percent decrease in Klebsiella bacteria infections since 2009, following a national health campaign to tamp down an outbreak the year before. No decrease has been reported for the other resistant bacterial strains.
Israel's Klebsiella decrease was reported last month in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the journal of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. The ability to reduce the number of Klebsiella infections led to a 75 percent reduction in the number of hospitalized patients who acquired the infection over the course of a year.
Since October, two Israelis were reported diagnosed with an intestinal disease that carries an antibiotic-resistant enzyme called New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase, also known as NDM-1. The infection has not caused any reported deaths in Israel.
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