Drug-resistant superbugs: CDC urges three-pronged attack to fight HAIs

Although U.S. hospitals have made some progress to reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), a new government report calls for a three-pronged approach to prevent deadly infections that are now resistant to antibiotics and a threat to all patients.

Previous research shows that 1 in 25 patients will acquire an HAI. In its latest issue of Vital Signs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies six drug-resistant bacteria that are among the most deadly and are considered "urgent or serious threats." They include

  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)
  • ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae (extended-spectrum ß-lactamases)
  • VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci)
  • Multi-drug resistant pseudomonas
  • Multi-drug resistant Acinetobacter

"Chilling" numbers of HAIs

The report reveals that 1 in 7 catheter and surgery-related infections are caused by any of these six drug-resistant superbugs. But that rate jumps to 1 in 4 in long-term acute care hospitals that treat some of the sickest patients.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., called the number of HAIs "concerning" and "chilling" during a news conference with reporters, according to UPI. "No one should get sick when they're trying to get well," he said.

The report urges healthcare providers to focus their efforts to prevent HAIs in three areas:

  • prevent infections related to surgery or placement of a catheter
  • prevent spread of bacteria between patients
  • improve antibiotic use

This means clinicians must follow recommendations to prevent C. difficle and infections that can occur after surgery or are related to single-use catheters placed in the body. Isolate patients when necessary and prescribe antibiotics correctly and know when to stop antibiotic treatment.

Advice for the C-suite

Healthcare leaders can aid in these efforts by following guidelines for preventing infections and promoting data use to target prevention and improvements.The CDC also recommends that healthcare CEOs and adminstrators make sure staff follow hand hygiene, isolation and environmental.device cleaning practices.

Furthermore, the report recommends that healthcare leaders establish a stewardship program and make infection prevention and stewardship a priority. Poor antibiotic stewardship is a major contributing factor to teaching hospitals' lack of progress on HAIs.

The CDC's recommendations are appropriate but only if organizations work on infection prevention and antibiotic stewardship efforts together and not separate silos, Mohamad Fakih, M.D., senior medical director of the Center of Excellence for Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Prevention at Ascension Health, the largest non-profit healthcare system in the U.S., told FierceHealthcare during an exclusive interview Friday. "Think of it as a mutual effort to help patients be safe," he said.

The CDC also released its progress report on HAIs and found that there has been a:

  • 50 percent decrease in central line-associated blood stream infections from 2008 to 2014
  • 17 percent decrease in surgical site infections related to the 10 select procedures tracked in previous reports
  • 8 percent decrease in C. difficile infections between 2011 and 2014  
  • 13 percent decrease in MRSA bacteremia between 2011 and 2014

To help organizations coordinate regional initiatives to combat drug-resistant bacteria, the CDC also has created a new web app called the Antibiotic Resistance HAI Patient Safety Atlas that has interactive data on infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

To learn more:
- read the Vital Signs report
- here's the UPI article
- check out the HAI progress report
- here's info on the new app