Hand Hygiene, Prescription Vigilance, UV-C equipment

LMHS: What’s the latest on superbugs?

Hand Hygiene, Prescription Vigilance, UV-C equipment

Image courtesy of [cooldesign] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Source: News-Press.com
Author: Kathleen Welch
The discovery of penicillin in 1929 was one of the greatest breakthroughs in medical history. Antibiotics have allowed science and innovation to progress into modern medicine: joint replacements, organ transplants and cancer therapy are just a few procedures dependent on the ability to fight infections with antibiotics.Unfortunately, all that success comes at a price: infectious bacteria are evolving.”Superbugs are typically identified by how toxic and invasive they are, and most often known for antibiotic resistance,” said Stephen Streed, Lee Memorial Health System’s director of epidemiology and infection prevention. “The organisms can spread this resistance through several mechanisms where they share genetic material with other related strains.”

By building a resistance to medicinal defenses, bacteria are rendering antibiotics less effective and, in some cases, ineffective.

“This is of great concern since superbugs have a higher rate of morbidity and require more treatment — longer, costlier treatment. Some bacteria, like C.diff, have also increased their ability to produce toxin,” Streed said. “MRSA, C.diff, and CRE are some of the more worrisome superbugs we hear about, and that’s because no amount of antibiotics manages them well.”

To put things in perspective, resistance to one of the most widely used antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections is widespread. When the drugs were first introduced in the ’80s, resistance was virtually zero. Today, there are countries in many parts of the world where they are now ineffective in more than half of patients, according to the World Health Organization.

The CDC claims that annually, MRSA causes more deaths than AIDS in the U.S. So what are local health leaders doing to combat these superbugs, and what can you do at home?

The WHO has initiated a global effort of research, development and promoting information sharing to allow health care professionals to stay ahead of emerging resistance. Other important actions include better hygiene, access to clean water, infection control and vaccination to reduce the need for antibiotics.

Doctors should be vigilant with prescribing. “Physicians also need to order them correctly, using the appropriate kind to fight the offending organism rather than a broad spectrum antibiotic,” Streed said.

“When a physician orders a culture on a patient’s specimen, the lab can identify what kind of bacteria it is and specific antibiotics the physician can use to treat it,” said Cindy Knoke, MT, BS, CIC Senior Infection Preventionist at HealthPark Medical Center. Early identification and isolation of patients with a superbug is also important to prevent further spread.

Infection control is one area where Lee Memorial Health System hospitals consistently work to enhance patient safety. This involves monitoring and improving behavioral practices as well as disinfection.

“Housekeeping disinfects every room, every day,” Streed said. “We use hospital grade, EPA-approved agents to kill harmful microbes. We also use hydrogen peroxide on our privacy curtains.”

The health system has implemented a disinfection policy requiring privacy curtains be sprayed with a light mist of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide after infection preventionist Alexis Price conducted a study on its effectiveness. The research won her a national award and has been shared with other hospitals, many of which have decided to adopt this cost-effective method.

“Housekeeping is very labor intensive and involves chemicals, especially during a max clean where the room is thoroughly scrubbed from ceiling to floor,” Streed said. “Housekeeping is necessary to clean debris from surfaces, but we’re also looking into secondary environmental hygiene devices, UV light systems, to help sterilize rooms.”

The health system experimented for more than two years with UV light and other disinfecting systems and found the UV lights to be the most efficient and reliable method in the hospital setting since they appear to offer the best blend of effectiveness, ease of use and operator safety.

“We are in the final stages of purchasing the UV-C equipment. UV lights are up to 99.9 percent effective depending on time of exposure and work by disrupting the bacteria’s DNA. There’s no known resistance to that,” Streed said.

“Patients sometimes need to wait in the ER for their rooms to be ready and utilizing the UV-C equipment can increase room turn-around time; however, UV-C technology is quickly evolving and disinfection can occur quicker than before, in some cases just a handful of minutes,” Price said.

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