Hospitals fight MRSA with antibiotics monitoring

In the war against "superbugs," every new tactic is worth a try. One that's gaining new prominence in the fight against bugs like MRSA is known as antimicrobial stewardship programs. These programs bring pharmacists, infectious-disease specialists and microbiologists together to monitor the use of a hospital's antibiotics. The group's job is to restrict prescriptions of specific drugs when they become less effective at fighting infections. While the war against antibiotic-resistant illnesses has been hot for years, it's gotten even hotter as Medicare plans to begin refusing to pay hospitals for treatment of preventable infections that patients get while under the facilities' care.

In a related development, two leading hospital purchasing groups are mounting campaigns to convince members to cut down on the use of antibiotics. The "Bugs and Drugs" program mounted by VHA Inc., an alliance of more than 1,400 nonprofit hospitals, helps member facilities identify and manage bugs that are resistant to antibiotics. Meanwhile Premier Inc., which represents more than 2,000 hospitals, is urging members to adopt their own antimicrobial stewardship programs. It's also offering an electronic data-tracking system to help monitor the use of certain drugs.

The programs are already offering tangible benefits. For example, consider Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, N.J., a 178-bed community hospital that joined the Bugs and Drugs program in 2006. To participate, Hunterdon developed guidelines for the most commonly overused antibiotics, and began to routinely test bacteria from its facility to determine their susceptibility to such drugs. Only a year later, Hunterdon found that 51 percent of cultures of Klebsiella pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia, urinary tract and wound infections, were susceptible to ciprofloxacin, up from 27 percent a year earlier.

To learn more about "superbug" fighting efforts:
- read this Wall Street Journal piece 

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