A single patient infected with the increasingly common "superbug" known as MRSA can cost a hospital $60,000, U.S. researchers reported Tuesday.

Their study of seven hospitals and health facilities shows that taking action, even expensive action, to fight infections can save money, the researchers at Duke University in North Carolina said.

The study, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, addresses methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA infections associated with surgery.

"Our estimates of the financial burden of surgical site infections due to MRSA are unique," Deverick Anderson of Duke University Medical Center and colleagues wrote.

"Surgical site infections due to MRSA led to charges in excess of $19 million for the group of study hospitals," they added.

"Surgical site infections due to MRSA led to a 7-fold increased risk of death, a 35-fold increased risk of hospital readmission, more than 3 weeks of additional hospitalization, and more than $60,000 of additional charges compared to uninfected controls."

For their study, Anderson's team looked at records from more than 140,000 surgical procedures done between 1998 and 2003.

They found and compared the cases of 150 patients with MRSA infections from the surgery, 128 with Staphylococcus aureus infections that were not resistant to the strong antibiotic methicillin and 231 similar patients who did not get infections.

"We found that patients with surgical site infections due to MRSA were 35 times more likely to be readmitted and seven times more likely to die within 90 days compared to uninfected surgical patients," Anderson said in a statement.

"These patients also required more than three weeks of additional hospitalization and accrued more than $60,000 in additional charges."

The study, available here, suggests it is worthwhile for hospitals to cleanup, do more infection control and even hire a staffer to take on the issue. "We believe our estimate for the attributable impact of a single surgical site infection due to MRSA of more than $61,000can be used by administrators and

infection control personnel to design and evaluate specific preventative interventions, "they wrote. Last month, U. S. researchers reported that MRSA cases have risen by 90 percent since 1999 and kill 20,000 people a year.