CDC: Superbugs on the rise because facilities don't work together

Individual organization-wide efforts are not enough to fight the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and healthcare leaders must work together to prevent the spread of the deadly infections, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Antibiotic-resistant germs, considered the health crisis of this generation, cause more than two million illnesses and at least 23,000 deaths each year in the U.S., according to the CDC. The deadliest germs include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C.diff) and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).  

A big reason for the spread of these superbugs is that hospitals frequently transfer patients with these drug-resistant superbugs or hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) to other facilities but fail to notify other healthcare organizations about the threat of the infections, the CDC noted in Vital Signs. But researchers say if healthcare leaders work together they could prevent 619,000 HAIs and 37,000 deaths over the next five years.

"Facilities can't do it alone," John Jernigan, M.D., a CDC official and the senior author of the paper, told Kaiser Health News. "There are not many places where a coordinated effort is happening, and we think we need to do a much better job."

The coordinated approach could also save the healthcare system $7.7 billion in direct care costs, according to the study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

To better coordinate efforts, the CDC recommends that healthcare leaders:

  • Put systems in place to alert receiving facilities when they transfer patients who have a drug-resistant bacteria
  • Review and perfect infection control actions within their facilities
  • Join efforts in the community to prevent HAIs and drug-resistant infections
  • Share data about antibiotic resistance and other HAIs with their public health departments
  • Provide clinical staff with access to prompt and accurate laboratory testing for antibiotic-resistant germs

Meanwhile, amid new concerns about the spread of superbugs caused by medical scopes for lung, stomach and colon procedures, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued new recommendations to clean scopes. The safety protocols, which include testing the scopes for contamination between use and using a liquid chemical solution or a gas to decontaminate them,aren't mandatory but may help prevent infections from difficult-to-clean reusable medical scopes.

To learn more:
- here's the Vital Signs report
- read the MMWR study
- check out the KHN article
- here's the FDA recommendations

Related Articles
Medical scopes and superbugs: Infection risk greater than previously thought
CRE superbug spreads to North Carolina, kills two
Endoscopes also linked to drug-resistant E. coli outbreak in Washington state
Majority of hospitals rate poorly in controlling C.diff, MRSA
Antibiotic-resistant superbugs: 'Health crisis of this generation'
Hospital infection control in the era of superbug outbreaks [Special Report]