A sampling of recent developments in the area of infection control and prevention.
Turning up the “yuck factor” to improve hand hygiene compliance
A new study has found that clinicians better adhere to hand hygiene strategies when they’re a little bit grossed out—yes, you read that right! The experiment took place at a hospital in Detroit, where infection preventionists gathered magnified images of the bacteria found on common objects in the healthcare setting and showed them to clinicians in four patient care units. The results? Hand hygiene compliance improved by 23 percent on the low end and by a whopping 142 percent in the most-improved unit. The researchers believe that caregivers can grow numb to the presence of germs and become lazy at hand hygiene—and that a graphic reminder is a good wake-up call.
Global partnership aims to develop new antibiotics
There’s no doubt about it, we’re in an era of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Now, an ambitious collaboration between the U.S. and U.K. has been forged to accelerate the development of new tools in our pharmaceutical arsenal. Called CARB-X, for “combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria biopharmaceutical accelerator,” the partnership has allocated $44 million in funding for its first year and up to $350 million over the next five years. The goal is to investigate promising new antibiotics and move the best candidates through the early stages of clinical trials in order to attract the attention of companies willing to invest in advanced development.
CAUTI rates decline under multi-tiered approach
The increased scrutiny on catheter-associated urinary tract infection may finally be paying off. A program that addresses multiple factors in CAUTI has led to declines both in catheter use and infection rates. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine recently and indicate a 14 percent overall drop in CAUTI rates after adjusting for differences in patients and hospitals. This was accomplished not only by addressing technical factors regarding the maintenance of indwelling catheters, but through a focus on changing clinician behavior and hospital culture as well—primarily by addressing the use of catheters for a clinician’s convenience or to reduce workloads.
Focus on HAIs causes some hospitals to ban flowers
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on new initiatives in some hospitals to ban traditional get-well gifts like flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals. The effort is said to stem from increased attention to preventing hospital-acquired infections, which can have a negative impact on quality ratings and Medicare reimbursement rates. (The balloon ban relates to increasing rates of latex allergies.) The article states that infection preventionists have found little evidence to support the link between patient infections and flowers or plants. However, some studies have found high concentrations of potentially harmful bacteria in vase water, and the CDC suggests keeping cut flowers and plants away from immune-compromised patients because they can harbor Aspergillus.
Gene that confers “superbug” status is isolated in the U.S.
This past May, a Pennsylvania woman was found to have a strain of E. coli that had developed resistance to colistin, a powerful antibiotic that is considered the “drug of last resort” for antibiotic-resistant infections. A second instance has now been confirmed in the U.S. Colistin resistance is seen in pathogens with a gene known as MCR-1. Health experts worry that this gene will spread to other bacteria, resulting in superbugs that could potentially cause untreatable infections.
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