Modeling the Movement of Superbugs to Prevent Infections

May 18, 2017 8:00 AM

Author: Matthew Samore

Patients with serious medical conditions requiring long-term hospital stays are more susceptible to infections by superbugs, bacteria that have developed resistance to several antibiotics. In 2011, the U.S. Government set a target of reducing the spread of one type of hospital-acquired superbug — Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) — by 60 percent by 2020. Previous studies showed that interventions to reduce the spread of these bacteria are effective but can be expensive. Now, a new study has identified a cost-effective intervention that could significantly reduce the spread of these dangerous bacteria throughout the broader community. The research was led by investigators at University of Utah Health and the Informatics, Decision Enhancement, and Analytic Sciences Center at the Salt Lake City VA along with researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Matthew Samore

The researchers created a model that simulated the spread of CRE among patients moving between nursing homes and hospitals, including a hospital specializing in long-term care of acutely ill patients. The researchers examined the effect of two interventions focused at this long-term acute care hospital to stop the spread of CRE to other facilities and the broader community. In the model, personnel test patients for CRE at admission and biweekly for the remainder of their stay. A patient that tests positive for CRE is isolated to prevent the spread of the superbug. In the model, the researchers found that these targeted interventions reduced the spread of CRE throughout the region by 79-93 percent over five years, which is equivalent to 1,400-2,900 fewer CRE infections over five years. The research demonstrates how a relatively localized, focused approach might be able to prevent the spread of the superbug to an entire region.

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