Communication Between Hospitals Part of Solution to "Superbug" Spread

Communication Between Hospitals Part of Solution to "Superbug" Spread

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The Centers for Disease Control expects the rate of infections from "superbugs" to grow because of an increase in strains that are resistant to antibiotics.

One of those bugs is Clostridium difficile, known as “C.diff “, an infection that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon.

The CDC says a new approach could prevent up to 70 percent of these types of infections over a five-year period.

It involves hospitals and nursing homes sharing information about patients who are infected with these bacteria if they are transferred from one facility to another.

"If you work just inside one hospital, you can do a little bit. But if you work within hospitals, community and nursing homes as a network, you can do a lot more,” said Dr. Mark Shelly, aboard certified Infectious Disease specialist and director of the Infectious Disease unit at Highland Hospital.

This coordinated effort has already started locally. "We've had a project going on for a couple of years. We're beginning to see some effect in the rates, specifically of Clostridium difficile, not only in the hospitals where most of the interventions have happened, but also in the community," Dr. Shelly said.

C. diff is often associated with the overuse of antibiotics, especially in elderly patients. Dr. Shelly believes it is not too late to alter the course of drug-resistant illness by limiting the prescribing of antibiotics.  He said the clue to the problem is found in the genes of these bacteria.

"It turns out for a microorganism to be resistant, it has to carry extra genes. If the antibiotics aren't around, that's just a waste of its energy. If we take away the antibiotics, sometimes they will reverse very quickly."

Beth Adams/WXXI News

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