CDC looks to Chicago hospitals' example in battle against superbugs

In the wake of the White House's aggressive plan to combat antibiotic-resistant infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hopes to slash rates of one particularly dangerous superbug nationwide by replicating the success of a program it piloted in four Chicago hospitals, Reuters reported.

The Chicago Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Prevention Epicenter, one of five CDC-funded research programs in the U.S., first tested patients after their admission and then two weeks later for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). The superbug is dubbed a "nightmare bacteria" for its resistance to most antibiotics and recently blamed for deadly outbreaks connected to the use of specialized device known as duodenoscopes.

The facilities then isolated patients who contracted CRE, bathed them in the antiseptic chlorhexidine gluconate and required healthcare workers to don personal protective equipment when treating the patients, according to Reuters. After three years of using this approach, the Chicago hospitals reduced their CRE infections by half, results the agency would like to translate elsewhere.

"When it comes to antimicrobial resistance, for many of the threats that we face, we know what to do," CDC Director Tom Frieden told the news agency. "We just need to get it done."  

The Obama administration's plan to take on antibiotic-resistant infections calls on hospitals to reduce CRE infections by 60 percent as well as cut Clostridium difficile infections by 50 percent and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus rates by at least half by 2020, FierceHealthcare has reported.

But not all experts are convinced the proposal goes far enough to address all the causes of antibiotic resistance, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"The plan clearly addresses antibiotic use in humans, but ignores the problems with overuse in animal agriculture," Mae Wu, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council's health program, told the publication.

The proposal requires the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce use of antibiotics to promote growth in animals raised for food. But the fact that many antibiotics are approved for both growth promotion and disease prevention may create a loophole that the president's plan fails to address, according to the WSJ.

A trade group for drug makers, the Animal Health Institute, however, said the FDA's new regulations will mean "growth promotion use [of antibiotics] will end."

To learn more:
- read the Reuters report
- check out the CDC's description of the program
- here's the WSJ article