The People's Perspective on Medicine

What Else Could Hospitals Do to Reduce Deadly Infections?

Controlling antibiotic use to only those cases where the drug is strictly necessary can help reduce the risk of C diff infections.

Hospital acquired C. diff infections cause dangerous diarrhea that can be life-threatening. A new study almost 400 hospitals shows that nearly half of them have not taken all recommended precautions to prevent such infections.

Recommended Precautions

To keep this infection from spreading between patients, hospitals must actively monitor for the bacteria Clostridium difficile. Patients who are infected need to be cared for in separate rooms. Hospital personnel must wear special protective gowns and gloves while cleaning crews have to use stringent cleaning strategies.

Although the majority of the hospitals investigated are complying with these recommendations, about half of them have no policy to limit antibiotic use, a major contributor to C diff infection. This is referred to as antibiotic stewardship and can help keep antibiotics useful as well as reduce the risk of C diff.

Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, online April 21, 2015

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Hospitals and their doctors accept contamination of almost any surface with bacteria (some resistant to almost all, and some completely resistant to all, antibiotics). Male doctors often wear ties (and have no intention of cleaning them every day), cleaning staff uses the recommended chemicals and process to “clean” surfaces, but testing (of actual possible remaining dangerous bacteria) is seldom done (how often is it done?). HVAC equipment is not designed to kill (99.9% in one pass) bacteria, and will spread it instead. Patients are routinely admitted with little knowledge of the bacteria they carry on the body and exhale in their breadth.
The design, construction of hospitals needs to be completely redone. E.g. HVAC and surfaces that actively kill bacteria), operation (E.g. daily bacterial contamination sampling and recording) decontamination methods that are tested for efficacy every time, patient (bacterial) testing, and doctors that don’t wear ties. Is any organization acting on these needs? Is there any hospital in the world that meets these criteria?

In addition to better handwashing and protecting the usefulness of antibiotics by only prescribing them against a confirmed bacterial infection, some hospital systems have started buying only meat that has been raised without the use of antibiotics as a preventative measure or a fattening method to move the meat to market more quickly. That way they are not bringing food-based antibiotic-resistance contamination into the buildings. That’s a good start.

Last month, in the March 2015 open access journal American Society For Microbiology, there was an article detailing how the use of certain popular and EPA-approved pesticides are contributing to antibiotic resistance in the plant crops, including glyphosate. Knowing that bacteria can horizontally transmit its traits to other bacteria, that means that eating plant foods sprayed with those particular pesticides may end up affecting the bacteria in the human digestive system, spreading antibiotic resistance beyond the farm. This would be especially dangerous in a hospital where immune systems are already stressed. Seems to me that it would be a responsible change for hospitals to only bring organically grown plant foods to their patients, to minimize the contagious hospital environments AND to prevent those infections from leaving the hospital grounds and contaminating the patient’s home and neighborhoods. Even the best hand-washing practices are not perfect, so it needs to be a multi-pronged effort.

And though I could be wrong, its my understanding that hospitals no longer have to report hospital acquired antibiotic-resistance infection rates to the public. If that’s true, it’s not a very transparent guideline and could take away a hospital’s incentive to improve. The hospitals that continue to report, despite not being required to, may be the one’s that end up being safest for patients.

All beds I have used always feel sticky. The control knobs, buttons and rails/ frame are sticky and definitely are not clean. I have found this in different hospitals. They simply have not been properly cleaned.

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