Hospital Doctor in MaskIn Washington, 32 people have been identified as having received a MRSA infection through contaminated medical scopes. The scopes had been cleaned according to manufacturer directions and federal standards—as I’m sure many are in hospitals across the country. In response to the outbreak, Virginia Mason Medical Center is now cleaning scopes more rigorously.

They’re not alone. Other hospitals have had similar accidental outbreaks in recent years. Nationally, one-half a percent of patients will die because of a hospital acquired infection.

(Some) hospitals have been working hard to fight hospital acquired infections, or HAIs. They’ve found inventive ways to enforce handwashing, like IDs that beep when doctors enter patient rooms, cameras, and rewards. Hospitals that enforce strict hand washing policies significantly reduce HAIs.

Hospitals have also been forced to address other problems in recent years, like stopping the spread of Hepatitis C, which sometimes occurs when injectable pain killers are “borrowed” and refilled with saline by addicts within the hospital infrastructure.

There’s also another big problem being addressed: the overprescription of antibiotics. Some doctors are working harder to not prescribe them for illnesses that are usually viral, and encouraging patients to stay home and rest, drink plenty of clear fluids, and maybe an occasional hot drink with honey.

Still, hospitals tend to routinely give patients antibiotics to rule out minor bacterial infections, and to reduce infection in the event the patient needs surgery. Add in that hospitals are a collection of people with the weakest immune systems (where pathogens can more easily take hold) and they’re a superbug breeding ground. MRSA, CRKP (the pneumonia superbug) and more all get bred in hospitals. Then they often end up in nursing homes and other care facilities.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the more serious problems facing the world today—as scary as it is to talk about. Luckily, there are lots of little things looking up.

A recent discovery means we can now breed bacteria in dirt, which may yield a fresh and abundant line of antibiotics.

Hospitals are incorporating nano silver coatings into everything from walls and curtains (things doctors and patients may innocently without thinking about handwashing, and which aren’t cleaned regularly), to catheters and other devices (too bad those scopes didn’t have a coating!).

Are you following the battle against antibiotic resistance?


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