In America, more people die from hospital infections than road accidents, breast cancer and AIDS put together, according to a research. This might sound alarming, but it’s true. Researchers are now trying to find more effective solutions to this growing menace.
A study of 153 Veterans Affairs hospitals showed that by performing a simple swab test to identify infection causing bacteria among patients could, in fact, save a lot of lives. This process is called screening.
Germs are invisible to the naked eye. Studies have identified that cleaning plays a major role in hospitals. And at the moment it’s inadequate. There is great threat of infections being passed from one patient to another in the hospital room. They could be left behind by a previous patient who had an infection. There’s no way of knowing who had been in that room because hospital staff will not disclose patient information.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is one of the major causes of antibiotic-resistant infections found in hospitals. It is mostly spread from one patient to another on the hands of medical staff through objects and surfaces such as door handles, medical equipments and chairs. Another most common drug-resistant bug is the VRE (vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus). Both MRSA and VRE are immune to antibiotics and hard to treat if patients are infected. Clostridium difficile or C. diff. is another infection that is widely prevalent in certain parts of America.
Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine states that a patient’s chances of picking up MRSA are more if the previous occupier of the hospital room had it.
According to a new study in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, C. diff doubles the threat of picking up the infection when patients touch surfaces in the hospital room and then eat food with their contaminated hands, swallowing the dreaded bacteria in the process. C. diff is known to cause dangerous diarrhoea, destructing the gastrointestinal system.
Lack of cleanliness in the hospitals can give rise to other infections like VRE even when the previous patient occupied the room two weeks ago.
A study of 36 hospitals from Boston to Washington has also revealed that cleaners are not doing a good job, often overlooking the surfaces. In fact, they found the toilet seats to be cleaner than door handles.
In another study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), clinical trials were conducted in 18 intensive care units in the United States to monitor the use of active surveillance for bacteria – mainly gloves and gowns. They found that it did not reduce the transmission of MRSA and VRE. The findings were published in the April 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. And the
Researchers led by W. Charles Huskins of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, screened culture samples of identified patients not previously known to carry MRSA or VRE bacteria. They found no difference in the recurrence of new bacteria between patients that received care according to the expanded interventions and those who did not. Trained monitors also concluded that hospital staff in both the groups did not practice good hand hygiene and used gloves and gowns less than required.
In conclusion, hospitals need more stringent measures to check for surface bacteria. The doctors and nurses need to get their act together and clean their hands thoroughly before coming into the room and wear gloves and gowns while treating patients with infections.
1) National Institutes of Health (NIH)
2) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services