hand with IV drip

By now, most people realize that a course of antibiotics can disrupt the ecology of the intestinal microbes and make a patient more vulnerable to diarrhea. This can usually be attributed to an overgrowth of Clostridium difficile, also known as C diff. But could another patient’s antibiotics put YOU in harm’s way?

Who Had Your Hospital Bed Before You?

A new study shows that antibiotics taken by one hospital patient can affect the next person to use that hospital bed, even if the second individual isn’t being treated with antibiotics. The research reviewed records on more than 100,000 pairs of patients between 2010 and 2015. There were four hospitals participating in the study.

What the Study Showed about Another Patient’s Antibiotics:

More than 500 people who were the second patient in their pair to occupy a specific hospital bed developed a C diff infection. (Clostridium difficile can cause serious, hard-to-treat diarrhea, as you can read here.)

Overall, that rate is low, less than 1 percent of the whole group. But the relative risk was 22 percent higher if the previous bed occupant had received antibiotics. The conclusion is that doctors should use antibiotics only when they are absolutely necessary. Otherwise, one patient could suffer as a result of another patient’s antibiotics.

JAMA Internal Medicine, online Oct. 10, 2016

Although the article does not mention housekeeping, the fact that the second patient was not taking antibiotics but still suffered C diff suggests that C diff spores were hanging out in or around the bed. These spores are extremely difficult to kill. Usually some type of bleach solution is required. Hospitals may need to re-evaluate exactly how they sterilize rooms and hospital beds between patients to minimize this risk.

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  1. Rick

    Has no one ever considered that you transfer the molecules found in antibiotic conditioned saliva from one person to another. I used to date a women until she went on prendisone and then gabapentin after that I found it very difficult to be with her let alone kiss her.

  2. Allison

    Rick, do you mean that cleaning agents are antibacterials? Not the same as antibiotics, though they may create antibiotic-resistant bacteria over time, which is why their use is slowly starting to be discouraged. The most harmful antibiotics, in terms of destroying the gut’s health flora, are those that are wide-spectrum; clindamycin is the most notorious for causing C. difficile, though so can the fluoroquinolones and a few others.

  3. Rick

    The antibiotics that you are prescribed do enough damage as the secondary injuries caused by antibiotics like Cipro are legendary. Also the cleaning fluids used in the hospital setting are in reality antibiotics that well could be contradictions to or with the medications .Besides its not the bugs that are building up a resistance to the antibiotics its that humans are. One should refer to antibiotics as metabolic poisons as they destroy or damage the bacteria in our gut that is necessary for life.. Apparently they even tag viruses for destruction by our immune system and if antibiotics cause mutations to chromosomes we are toast.

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