Inadvertent exposure of hospital housekeepers and transporters to antibiotic-resistant superbugs, such as MRSA, is one cause of the rampant international hospital infection epidemic, according to a expert study.

Dangerous infections such as pneumonia and sepsis, which can be caused by drug-resistant microbes such as MRSA, increased US healthcare costs by $8.1bn in 2006 due to protracted hospital stays and treatment, the study conducted by Extending the Cure said.

Inadvertent exposure results when hospitals fail to alert environmental and transport personnel in advance about isolation rooms holding infected patients, overlooking housekeepers and transporters, who are the most widely travelled hospital personnel.

Over 60% of hospital-acquired infections are now in the general patient population, up from only 2% in the mid-1970s, when infections were mostly confined to acute care areas, researchers said.

Preventing the spread of MRSA involves a multi-faceted approach including supporting service staff and educating them about awareness of MRSA, real-time identification and effective protected communication of patients and EVS staff using correct cleaning protocols.