A report has found that MRSA infection in Irish hospitals costs over €23m a year.

The report 'MRSA in Ireland' was produced by a team of microbiologists, hospital pharmacists and patient advocates and funded through a grant from Pfizer.

It says that patients who develop a healthcare infection spend on average an extra 11 days in hospital and the treatment costs also increase.

These patients are also over seven times more likely to die than uninfected patients.

Among the measures recommended to reduce the risk of MRSA infection are early discharge, more out-patient treatments, as well as a reduction in the overuse of antibiotics.

The report says that while doctors are obliged to report cases of MRSA, they do not have to report the outcome (recovery or death), which means there is no systematic gathering of this data.

It says Ireland ranks fourth in Europe for MRSA bloodstream infection, with close to 400 cases a year.

Provisional figures for the first nine months of last year show a decline in bloodstream cases for the first time since surveillance began in 1999.

However, the report urges caution pending confirmation of this trend over a longer surveillance period.