Hospital-acquired superbug infections a bigger problem than Americans think

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Hospital-acquired infections are a major public health concern the risk of getting an infection while in the hospital is roughly 1 in 20. They are also an especially substantial burden because they are often difficult to treat due to their antibiotic resistance (therefore being dubbed superbugs). Just a few of these bacteria include MRSA, VRE, and CRE, which the CDC refers to as nightmare bacteria.

The immense problem of superbug infections in US hospitals is exactly why Betsy McCaughey, health policy expert, former New York Lieutenant Governor, and former ACSH trustee, recently criticized President Obama s $200 million Ebola-treatment request. McCaughey pointed out that more than 23,000 Americans die every year from superbug infections in US hospitals, while about 2,000 people have died from Ebola. The former lieutenant governor stated that the $200 million for Ebola seems oversized compared to the $30 million he allocated to stop superbug infections.

According to McCaughey, over half the surfaces in a patient s room are left untouched between patient admissions. The reason these rooms are not disinfected is because not-for-profit hospitals are near bankruptcy and cannot afford the expensive equipment needed to eradicate the superbugs, although several technologies are available, such as hydrogen peroxide misters and xenon ultraviolet machines. The same $200 million could outfit over half the not-for-profit hospitals in the U.S. with the equipment, McCaughey pointed out.

These superbug infections are also incredibly expensive to treat, costing the US about $35 billion a year. McCaughey concludes, I hope [President Obama] will lend a hand to the hospitals and patients right here at home.

Betsy McCaughey s argument befittingly coincides with a recent study stating that the risk of superbug infections rose by 1% for every day a patient spent in the hospital. The study, performed at the Medical University of South Carolina, was presented at the 54th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Lead author Tonya Smith, PharmD, and colleagues analyzed almost 1000 episodes of Gram-negative bacteria hospital infections between 1998 and 2011. A strong relationship between time in the hospital and infection with Gram-negative multidrug-resistant (MDR) pathogens was found. While it is often assumed by clinicians that the risk of superbug infections increases with hospital stay, the study by Dr. Smith and colleagues is the first to quantify it.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom had this to say: Although MRSA infections are down nationwide, it is clear that the toll of these infections remains way too high, and new effective drugs are needed to combat this problem. The money being proposed for ebola treatment could really be spent more effectively on antibiotic R&D.