CDC Aims to Make Healthcare Visits Safer For Patients


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes far too many Americans are exposed to "dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria" in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes far too many Americans are exposed to “dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria” in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

The government agency is basing its assessment on the findings in its latest Vital Signs report, which was released March 3. Vital Signs is a monthly report from the CDC that provides data on current challenges in US health.

According to the March report, antibiotic-resistant bacteria—such as carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE), methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), extended-spectrum β-lactamases-producing enterobacteriaceae, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), multidrug-resistant pseudomonas aeruginosa and multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter—typically pose the most serious threat to patients while they are being treated in healthcare facilities for other conditions. The CDC has found that in acute care hospitals roughly one in seven catheter- and surgery-related hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are caused by these bacteria. In long-term, acute-care hospitals, that number increases to one in four, the agency reports.

“The bottom line here is doctors are the key to stamping out super bugs,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, noted in a media telebriefing for the Vital Signs report. “Antibiotic resistance threatens to return us to a time when a simple infection could kill. The more people who get infected with resistant bacteria, the more people who suffer complications, the more who tragically may die from preventable infections.”

The CDC has developed several resources to assist healthcare professionals in combatting HAIs caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These initiatives include the Antibiotic Resistance Patient Safety Atlas, a new web app with interactive data on HAIs caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria designed to provide national, regional and state map views of superbug/drug combinations showing incidence of resistance over time. The app uses data reported to CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network, which collects information from more than 4,000 healthcare facilities.

The government agency notes that Congress has also “recognized the urgent need to combat antibiotic resistance.” In the current fiscal year federal budget, more than $160 million has been appropriated to fund the CDC’s National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, with the goal of accelerating outbreak detection and prevention in every state and enhancing tracking of resistance mechanisms and resistant infections. The action plan includes the establishment of national standards for vaccination and antibiotic stewardship programs as well as the creation of a regional public health laboratory network for resistance testing and genetic characterization of bacteria.

“Antibiotic resistance has been identified by the CDC as an urgent and serious threat to the health of our patients,” said Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, Director, Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, who participated in the CDC telebriefing. “No hospital is immune from this problem and we all have work to do. Antibiotics [can] be lifesaving, and they're necessary for critically ill patients, especially those with septic shock, [but they] need to be adjusted based on lab results and new information about organisms causing the infections. A common mistake we make is to continue vancomycin, a type of antibiotic when there is no presence of MRSA, the prime infection that the antibiotic treats. We often tell our staff at Johns Hopkins if it doesn't grow, let it go.”

Brian P. Dunleavy is a medical writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in numerous healthcare-related publications. He is the former editor of Infectious Disease Special Edition.

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