Nurses have been urged to look out for a type of infection in boils and abscesses that has seen a ten-fold increase in reported cases over the last six years.
The Health Protection Agency has released figures showing that 2,227 cases of Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL) were referred to its staphylococcal reference unit for identification last year, up from 224 cases in 2005.
PVL – a toxin associated with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria – causes boils and abscesses which tend to be more aggressive and likely to spread than usual, and that need careful treatment so the infection does not spread. It has become a major public health problem in the US where it has reached epidemic levels.
Martin Kiernan, a nurse consultant in prevention and control of infection at Southport and Ormskirk Trust, called on community nurses to be vigilant and advised them to report suspected PVL cases for analysis.
He said: “I’d certainly urge all district and practice nurses to be on the watch for recurrent abscesses and boils, and to seek the advice of their infection control specialists where needed.”
The HPA launched a campaign in 2005 urging healthcare workers to report unusual boils and abscesses. The HPA said this may have contributed to the increase in recorded PVL cases.
HPA scientists have discovered that, of all the staphylococcal boil and abscess isolates referred to their labs, 65% are caused by PVL.