EID Journal Home > Volume 17, Number 6–June 2011
Volume 17, Number 6–June 2011
Internet Queries and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Surveillance
Vanja M. Dukic, Michael Z. David, and Diane S. Lauderdale
Author affiliations: University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA (V.M. Dukic); and University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA (M.Z. David, D.S. Lauderdale)
Suggested citation for this article
The Internet is a common source of medical information and has created novel surveillance opportunities. We assessed the potential for Internet-based surveillance of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and examined the extent to which it reflects trends in hospitalizations and news coverage. Google queries were a useful predictor of hospitalizations for methicillin-resistant S. aureus infections.
Staphylococcus aureus is the most common bacterial pathogen isolated from human infections (1). Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates are strains constitutively resistant to β-lactam antimicrobial drugs. MRSA was initially largely confined to patients with health care exposures (2), but in the late 1990s, genetically distinct strains emerged and spread rapidly among healthy persons in the United States. These new strains, known as community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA), differ epidemiologically and genetically from older strains (2,3). CA-MRSA strains have become the most common cause of skin infections in US emergency departments (4).
There is no systematic surveillance system in the United States for MRSA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks a limited group of infections defined as invasive through the Active Bacterial Core (ABC) surveillance system reported from 9 regions. These include MRSA infections at normally sterile sites. In a 2007 report, CDC used ABC surveillance to estimate that there were 94,000 cases and 18,650 deaths caused by invasive MRSA disease in the United States in 2005 (5). This report received extensive media coverage and increased public awareness of MRSA (6).
Recent efforts to overcome surveillance limitations, in particular delay and limited geographic coverage, have included Internet protocol (IP) surveillance. IP surveillance monitors Internet search terms related to a specific disease, assuming that greater disease activity correlates with more searches. The best known IP surveillance is Google Flu Trends (7), although other researchers have created additional models (8,9). Given the lack of comprehensive surveillance, we examined whether Google search data might productively supplement existing systems to track the changing epidemiology of MRSA infections. Because MRSA, unlike influenza, is unfamiliar to many persons, we hypothesized that Internet search activity might reflect curiosity inspired by news reports and information-seeking related to actual infections or symptoms.
Internet Queries and MRSA Surveillance | CDC EID
Suggested Citation for this Article
Dukic VM, David MZ, Lauderdale DS. Internet queries and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus surveillance. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2011 Jun [date cited].
Comments to the Authors
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Diane S. Lauderdale, Department of Health Studies, University of Chicago, 5841 South Maryland Ave, MC 2007, Chicago, IL 60637, USA; email: firstname.lastname@example.org