A recently published study shows that a better understanding of the relationship between patients and drug-resistant bacteria is crucial to preventing the spread of infection within hospitals. With a more detailed knowledge of the extent to which certain bacteria can spread, medical facilities can take better care to protect patients from life-threatening diseases.
The research, performed by a team of scientists at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was published in October in Nature Research. By developing an approach combining both epidemiological and genomic information to chart the spread of bacteria in healthcare settings, the researchers theorized hospitals can better and more quickly identify and control sources of infection.
The results of the study were troubling – showing that bacteria spreads further and farther than previously thought, and even deep cleaning did not completely remove it from a room.
The spread of drug-resistant Enterococcus faecium
The team put their approach to work studying the spread of drug-resistant Enterococcus faecium (E. faecium) in a hospital setting. E. faecium is a common bacterium found around the esophagus, stomach and intestines that typically lives without problems. However, in a patient with a weakened immune system, it can cause a life-threatening infection.
Over the past three decades, strains of E. faecium have emerged that are resistant to antibiotics, limiting treatment options immensely.
The study results
For the study, the team followed 149 patients admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital for six months. They collected stool samples from each patient and swabs from hospital environment, checking for E. faecium bacteria. Then, the hospital performed a deep clean of the ward over three days while the patient was moved elsewhere. When the team sampled the environment post-cleaning, nine percent of samples came back positive for bacteria.
Further, within three days of the patient returning to the ward, approximately half of the samples taken came back positive. Three-quarters of the patients came back positive for drug-resistant strains of E. faecium. Out of this group, 60 percent of the samples had a strong association with at least one other patient and/or the immediate environment – meaning it was likely the bacteria was from the hospital.
“The fact that these cases were all linked to another patient or their environment suggests strongly that they had picked up the multi-drug resistant bacteria while in the hospital,” said Dr. Francesc Coll of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Bacteria remained despite cleaning
Nearly half (48%) of the swabbed samples taken from the hospital tested positive for antibiotic-resistant E. faecium as well. This included some medical devices, air vents, bed spaces and communal bathrooms. “Our study builds on previous observations that drug-resistant strains of E. faecium can persist in the hospital environment despite standard cleaning—we were still surprised to find how short-lasting was the effect of deep cleaning,” said Dr. Gouliouris.
Hospital-acquired infections are more common than you might know
- faecium is one of only many hospital-acquired infections to which a patient may be vulnerable. These can include conditions like:
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Clostridium difficile (C. difficile, or C. diff)
- Surgical site infections
- Ventilator-associated pneumonia
The medical malpractice attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP are dedicated to protecting the health of hospital patients throughout Georgia. If you or a loved one acquired an infection due to medical negligence, contact us today. To schedule your free case evaluation, call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.
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