Antibiotics are taken to fight bacterial infections and when used properly, can save lives. However, multidrug-resistant bacteria, such as E.coli, may be found in one in four people living in nursing homes, according to HealthDay News.
Following eight earlier studies, researchers reported rates from 11 percent of nursing home residents to a disturbing 59 percent, with 27 percent the average number of affected individuals. “Nursing home residents are at higher risk to become colonized with these bacteria,” notes study author Sainfer Aliyu, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City.
Each time antibiotics are taken, sensitive bacteria are killed, while resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses, such as colds, flu, bronchitis and most coughs, or sore throats, (unless caused by the streptococcus bacteria). In some cases, antibiotics may do more harm than good, which can add to antibiotic resistance. This occurs when bacteria change and become capable of resisting the effects of an antibiotic.
In some cases, people in nursing homes may not be aware if they are colonized as they may not display any symptoms. “But they can spread the germ to others, and they have the potential to become sick themselves,” Aliyu said.
As the country’s “superbug” numbers grow, health officials are especially concerned about infections resistant to carbapenems. This is a powerful antibiotic used when other treatments have failed, report study authors. People in nursing homes share many spaces and have contact with each other, giving the germs the ability to move from person to person, reports HealthDay News.
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Study Focus for Nursing Home Infections
The study searched particularly for bacteria known as multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria (MDR-GNB). These types of bacterial infections are common in nursing homes, with limited treatment options, according to study authors. The researchers examined the medical literature for studies on MDR-GNB and nursing home residents for eight studies done between 2005 and 2016. Aliyu remarked that the study shows the need to “further educate staff on infection prevention,” as well as come up with “policies for infection prevention that are more nursing-home specific.” Study findings were published in the May issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.
“This was a well-done study that quantifies the degree of colonization in long-term facilities,” said Linda Greene, an infectious-disease specialist who praised the new research. Greene is president-elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc., in Rochester, New York.
Importance of Hand-washing
Greene said it is difficult to know how high colonization rates are in the general population, and the rates seen in nursing homes are probably higher than in hospitals. “It stands to reason that colonization rates may be higher because the nursing home is people’s residences. And this is where the challenges occur, because how do we curtail this? There’s so much interaction between nursing home residents. But we don’t want people confined to their rooms,” Greene said.
One easy way to prevent infection is hand-washing. This is one of the best ways to prevent infections, Greene notes. Dr. David Gifford, senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs for the American Health Care Association, agreed that hand-washing is vital for preventing infection, HealthDay News reports.
Gifford advises that people should always ask health care providers if they’ve washed their hands before examining them. “Health care providers shouldn’t be offended by this question,” he said. Referring to the current study, Gifford said, “Everyone likes to point fingers, but we really don’t know where the bacteria came from. Some probably originated in the nursing homes, some in hospitals and some in the community. Ninety percent of admissions to nursing homes come from a hospital.”
Overuse of Antibiotics
In the United States in particular, Dr. Gifford notes that the findings from this study reflect that “we administer antibiotics much more frequently than is necessary. As you give out more and more antibiotics, you’re going to develop more antibiotic resistance.” Gifford remarked the overprescribing of antibiotics “a real and serious threat in the U.S.” He believes that changing antibiotic prescribing is as important as infection controls, reports HealthDay News.
Greene also said that hospitals and long-term care facilities must work together to fight the problem. She notes that communication between facilities needs to improve, particularly when an individual is transferred while taking antibiotics to make sure that they complete their course of antibiotics.
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