Fighting Increasing Number of Superbug Infections


superbugTwo million illnesses were caused by antibiotic-resistant germs this year in the U.S. alone. At least 23,000 in the country died from them. If the situation was not bad enough, public health officials report that the number of superbug infections keeps increasing and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking for help fighting the growing problem.

The government agency maintains a coordinated effort now could prevent the infection rates from growing. The CDC indicating in a report and press release issued today that prevention efforts and improved antibiotic prescription practices could save 37,000 lives from drug-resistant bugs in the next 5 years.

Nightmare germs called CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (aka C. difficile) are the sources of concern for the newer deadly infections spreading these days. They cause severe diarrhea, pneumonia, sepsis and other infections that can lead to death, particularly in seniors and hospital patients who are already dealing with illnesses.

“We must transform our public health response to turn the tide. The coordinated response this Vital Signs report describes is a forward-looking approach,” said Beth Bell, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. Toward that end, the CDC looked at ways infections are handled, their response and ways to improve antibiotic use within health care facilities.

Researchers conducted a study, published this week in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, to see what would happen if someone with a CRE infection was cared for within a network of 10 hospitals that shared patients. They determined that, using current hospital protocols to prevent infection, 2,000 patients were likely to become infected with CRE over the next five years. If those hospitals stepped up efforts to prevent the bacteria from spreading, but did not coordinate efforts with the other hospitals, an estimated 1,500 patients would get CRE. However, the researchers believe that, with the hospitals working together, a mere 400 patients would get CRE.

According to the CDC researchers, “independent, institution-based efforts to prevent transmission have been inadequate.” The CDC research and subsequent recommendations indicate that better communication between hospitals, nursing homes and public health officials could have a dramatic effect in fighting the increase in superbug infections. That seems optimistic. Many facilities are less than forthcoming if they have a patient with a drug-resistant germ.

Additionally, medical records are not standardized and accessible to everyone treating a patient from one facility to another. Additionally, according to Forbes, most states do not require facilities to report drug-resistant infections to public health officials. The Forbes article reports that South Dakota and Illinois are the only states that keep the information centralized and accessible to other health officials.

Recognizing that patients and their families can help stop the spread of superbug infections, Michael Bell, M.D., deputy director of CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, suggested, “When receiving health care, tell your doctor if you have been hospitalized in another facility or country, wash your hands often, and always insist that everyone have clean hands before touching you. Ask your health care providers what they and the health care facility in your area do to coordinate with others to protect you and your family from an antibiotic-resistant or C. difficile infection.”

The CDC recommendations focus on fighting the increasing number of superbug infections using care coordination. “If you’re a hospital doing a great job but the hospital down the street isn’t, your patients are at risk,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Facilities that go it alone can’t protect their own patients.”

Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss

CDC: CDC modeling projects growth of drug-resistant infections and C. difficile
CDC: Making Health Care Safer
Fox News: Superbug forecast: Infections will increase in US
Forbes: CDC’s Plan To Reduce Superbug Infections Is Wishful Thinking

Photo courtesy of National Cancer Institute (public domain)