Antibiotic-resistant infections remain a persistent threat




One in every seven infections in acute care hospitals related to catheters and surgeries was caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In long-term acute care hospitals, that number increased to one in four.

Those are key findings from a study published March 3 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that is the first to combine national data on antibiotic-resistant (AR) bacteria threats with progress on health care–associated infections (HAIs).

“Antibiotic resistance threatens to return us to a time when a simple infection could kill,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said during a March 3 telebriefing. “The more people who get infected with resistant bacteria, the more people who suffer complications, the more who, tragically, may die from preventable infections. On any given day about one in 25 hospitalized patients has at least one health care–associated infection that they didn’t come in with. No one should get sick when they’re trying to get well.”

For the study, researchers led by Dr. Clifford McDonald of the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, collected data on specific infections that were reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network in 2014 by approximately 4,000 short-term acute care hospitals, 501 long-term acute care hospitals, and 1,135 inpatient rehabilitation facilities in all 50 states (MMWR. 2016 Mar 3. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6509e1er). Next, they determined the proportions of AR pathogens and HAIs caused by any of six resistant bacteria highlighted by the CDC in 2013 as urgent or serious threats: CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae (extended-spectrum beta-lactamases), VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci), multidrug-resistant pseudomonas, and multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter.

The researchers found that, compared with historical data from 5-8 years earlier, central line–associated bloodstream infections decreased by 50% and surgical site infections (SSIs) by 17% in 2014.

Dr. Thomas Frieden © CDC

Dr. Thomas Frieden

“There is encouraging news here,” Dr. Frieden said. “Doctors, nurses, hospitals, health care systems and other partners have made progress preventing some health care–associated infections.” However, the study found that one in six remaining central line-associated bloodstream infections were caused by urgent or serious antibiotic-resistant bacteria, while one in seven remaining surgical site infections were caused by urgent or serious antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

While catheter-associated urinary tract infections appear unchanged from baseline, there have been recent decreases, according to the study. In addition, C. difficile infections in hospitals decreased 8% between 2011 and 2014.

Dr. McDonald and his associates determined that in 2014, one in seven infections in acute care hospitals related to catheters and surgeries was caused by one of the six antibiotic-resistance threat bacteria, “which is deeply concerning,” Dr. Frieden said. That number increased to one in four infections in long-term acute care hospitals, a proportion that he characterized as “chilling.”

The CDC recommends three strategies that doctors, nurses, and other health care providers should take with every patient, to prevent HAIs and stop the spread of antibiotic resistance:

• Prevent the spread of bacteria between patients. Dr. Peter Pronovost, who participated in the telebriefing, said that he and his associates at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore “do this by practicing good hand hygiene techniques by wearing sterile equipment when inserting lines.”

• Prevent surgery-related infections and/or placement of a catheter. “Check catheters frequently and remove them when you no longer need them,” advised Dr. Pronovost, director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins. “Ask if you actually need them before you even place them.”

• Improve antibiotic use through stewardship. This means using “the right antibiotics for the right duration,” Dr. Pronovost said. “Antibiotics could be lifesaving and are necessary for critically ill patients, especially those with septic shock. But these antibiotics need to be adjusted based on lab results and new information about the organisms that are causing these infections. Forty-eight hours after antibiotics are initiated, take a ‘time out.’ Perform a brief but focused assessment to determine if antibiotic therapy is still needed, or if it should be refined. A common mistake we make is to continue vancomycin when there is no presence of MRSA. We often tell our staff at Johns Hopkins, ‘if it doesn’t grow, let it go.’ ”

Dr. Frieden concluded his remarks by noting that physicians and other clinicians on the front lines “need support of their facility leadership,” to prevent HAIs. “Health care facilities, CEOs, and administrators are a major part of the solution. It’s important that they make a priority of infection prevention, sepsis prevention, and antibiotic stewardship. Know your facility’s data and target prevention efforts to ensure improvements in patient safety.”


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