We have written about the antibiotic crisis quite often, both in Dispatch and published op-eds. Many others have done the same.
Although much of the focus has been on the development of new antibiotics to combat resistant bacteria, there are other fronts in this war. Although the need for antibiotics is undisputed, it is better not to need them in the first place. This is an area in which good progress has been made.
Although not all resistant bacterial infections arise in hospitals, many of them do. This is especially bad, since the close proximity of people who are already sick makes a bad problem worse. But, much of this was due to poor infection control procedures in the hospitals. Bad habits, from poor hygienic procedures by hospital workers (insufficient hand washing) to non-obvious causes, such as doctors penchant for draping their contaminated ties and stethoscopes over multiple vulnerable patients bodies.
Correcting problems such as this costs almost nothing, and works quite well, according to a new CDC report.
For example, blood bacterial infections (sepsis) from central line catheters IV tubes that deliver drugs to the sickest of patients fell by almost half between 2008 and 2013. During that same period, surgery-related infections dropped by 19 percent and procedure-related infections by 10 percent.
Although the magnitude of the drop in C. diff. infections was only 10 percent, this is still critically important, because this is a particularly tough microbe. It can make people very ill (or kill them) and is very hard to treat with antibiotics.
ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom, a former researcher in the antibiotic field says, It is far better to prevent a hospital-acquired infection than to treat one. And, as this report shows, it is quite doable. This is far easier than discovering a new antibiotic. Given this, hospitals have to be relentless in enforcing better procedures. It is inexcusable for a doctor, or any other health care worker, to harm patients because of something that they have the ability to prevent.
ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross had this to add: In today s New York Post, former ACSH trustee Dr. Betsy McCaughey chose the new CDC data on reduced hospital infections to take aim at the CDC and it s bumbling ideologue leader, Tom Frieden. In her essay Disease uncontrolled: Swift decline of the CDC she notes numerous areas where the agency has failed in its public health mission during the Frieden tenure. Her main target is this exact area, hospital infections: she is by the way president of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID), her nonprofit which has been demanding that the CDC be more forceful in requiring hospitals to take simple measures to save patients lives and reduce costs, and mandate public disclosure of infection rates. I would add that she ignored the CDC s crusade against e-cigarettes and harm reduction, campaigns that are based on no science and will eventuate in killing many smokers. But her op-ed deserves widespread publicity.