Superbug threat grows in DC hospitals

Hospitals in the District of Columbia are a crucial way station for antibiotic-resistant superbugs, according to a new report from the D.C. Hospital Association (DCHA).

Tests of 1,000 patients over a 15-week period in 16 area hospitals found more than 50 positives for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)--a 5.1 percent prevalence rate.

The study encompassed several of the District's major hospitals, including George Washington University Hospital and MedStar Washington Hospital Center, although the DCHA didn't release hospital-specific numbers. Acute care hospitals had a slightly lower CRE prevalence of 4.8 percent, compared with 5.7 percent at their sub-acute care counterparts.

"We didn't know what we would find because no one's ever done this before. There's nothing in the scientific literature that really says, 'You could expect to see this level of these organisms in hospitals,'" Jo Anne Nelson, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the DCHA, told the Washington Business Journal. "Now we have a comprehensive baseline number for this in the District."

Further study and collaboration are needed to determine best practices for addressing the superbug crisis, according to the DCHA.

Superbugs have been called a "looming global crisis," and a 2014 report found failure to address the issue could lead to 10 million deaths a year by 2050 as well as annual costs of $100 trillion, FierceHealthcare previously reported. In April, UK Chancellor George Osborne warned superbugs are "an even greater threat to mankind than cancer" and called on leaders to provide pharmaceutical companies with greater incentive to develop antibiotics that can tackle them.

To learn more:
- read the study results (.pdf)
- here's the Business Journal article