Hospital-acquired infections cause domino effect

A new study reveals a superbug domino effect, in which an increase in vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) at one hospital can cause an average 2.8 percent increase in every other hospital in that county.

Researchers used 2006-2007 patient level admission and transfer data for 29 adult acute care hospitals in Orange County, Calif., and tracked the movement between hospitals with patients carrying the organism but not yet infected for a year.

They found the larger the hospital with an increase in VRE prevalence, the greater its effect on neighboring facilities. Moreover, even least connected hospitals still influenced VRE burden in other regional hospitals.

The study, in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, noted the 2.8 percent VRE increase translates to 898 VRE-colonized patients in a hospital with 32,082 yearly admissions.

With a hospital's action or inaction to reduce VRE prevalence affecting another regional facility, researchers found free-riding hospitals could see some benefits when all other hospitals decreased their prevalence.

The researchers called for extensive patient sharing between regional hospitals, inter-hospital communication, regional control programs and coordinated VRE control campaigns to reduce the superbug spread, according to the research announcement.

But the effects of changing VRE prevalence in one hospital can take months to years to fully manifest, so hospitals need patience and long-term follow-up to monitor control, the study noted.

Hospital-acquired infections, such as VRE, are becoming a national crisis, with 1.7 million Americans developing them each year at a cost of up to $45 billion, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the research announcement
- read the study