According to the CDC, Hispanic dialysis patients have a 40% higher risk of staph infection than whites
Hispanic dialysis patients are at a 40% higher risk of developing a staph infection compared to whites, according to new data released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underscoring the economic and racial disparities in the U.S. healthcare system.
Adults who required dialysis for kidney failure were 100 times more likely to develop staph infections compared to the general US population, according to the CDC. Needles and catheters are used to connect patients to dialysis, and bacteria such as staph can enter a patient’s bloodstream during the process. Staph infections are serious and sometimes fatal.
“Overall, it is believed that the second leading cause of death in dialysis patients is infection — all infections, not just bloodstream infections,” said Dr. Shannon Novosad, head of the CDC’s dialysis safety team, told reporters during a call Monday. “They are also one of the leading causes of hospitalization for these patients.”
According to the CDC, more than 800,000 people in the US are living with kidney failure, 70% of whom require dialysis.
However, people of color are at an even higher risk of kidney failure, which accounts for more than half of dialysis patients. According to CDC data, the rate of kidney failure is four times higher in blacks and twice higher in Hispanics than whites. Blacks make up 33% of all dialysis patients in the US.
Black and Hispanic dialysis patients were also more likely to get staph infections than white patients, the CDC said. The data analyzing dialysis patients from 2017 to 2020 did not conclusively calculate the increased risk for black patients. However, Hispanic patients were at a 40% higher risk of staph infection than whites, according to the CDC.
The CDC said in a statement that the unadjusted rate of staph bloodstream infections was 23% higher in black patients than white patients, but when adjusted for other factors, they were not at greater risk.
“It’s still important to highlight these increased rates because staph infections are more common among black dialysis patients, but there are other factors contributing to these increased rates outside of race alone,” CDC spokeswoman Martha Sharan said.
According to Novosad, more dialysis patients with staph infections lived in areas with higher poverty, more households and lower educational levels. About 42% of staph infections in dialysis patients occurred in areas with the highest poverty, she said.
The CDC study examined data from select counties in seven states from 2017 to 2020. The states are California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Tennessee and Minnesota.
Bloodstream infections in dialysis patients fell 40% from 2014 to 2019, according to the CDC, thanks to staff and patient education on prevention. Using fistulas and grafts to connect a patient’s bloodstream to the dialysis machine reduces the risk of infection compared to catheters.
“Prevention of staph infections begins with recognizing chronic kidney disease in its early stages to prevent or delay the need for dialysis,” said CDC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Debra Houry.