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Clinics and Doctors' Offices Spreading Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (Superbugs)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: MRSA, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Think you're only in danger from antibiotic-resistant infections, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C.difficile) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus if you are in a hospital? Think again.

The potential for picking up one of these infections in other seemingly "safe" places is a real threat that deserves at least as much attention as the mainstream media-hyped new swine flu, or H1N1. For example, the BBC just reported a 58 year old man, Raymond Evans, recently came down with an antibiotic-resistant "flesh eating" infection while on a vacation cruise. Despite strong antibiotics, he died within 24 hours of becoming ill. And now a review just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) says doctors' offices and clinics can be potentially dangerous places contaminated with these sometimes fatal germs.

"The recent emergence of community-associated MRSA, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus and C.difficile among patients with no known predisposing factors has increased the potential for offices and clinics to become silent reservoirs of these pathogens," Dr. Anne Matlow and coauthors from the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Toronto write in the CMAJ article.

These infections can take a huge toll on life and limb. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) web site reports that in 2005 (the latest year statistics are available), almost 100,000 people in the U.S. developed a serious, invasive MRSA illness. Close to 20,000 died during a hospital stay related to these infections. According to the CDC, some 85% of all these invasive MRSA infections were associated with healthcare -- and about two-thirds of those occurred from contact with healthcare outside of a hospital. Only 14% of the reported MRSA infections occurred in persons without any obvious exposure to healthcare.

Antibiotic-resistant infections that are localized to skin and soft tissue can sometimes, but not always, be treated effectively. However, the CDC notes, some strains have developed super-strength virulence, allowing them to spread more rapidly, defying treatment and causing more severe illness than the type of antibiotic-resistant infections seen in the past. The result can be a shutdown of vital organs, widespread infection (sepsis), toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing ("flesh-eating") pneumonia.

So how can clinics and doctors' office minimize transmission of these potentially deadly pathogens? The CMAJ review article outlines infection control strategies for these settings involving commonsense approaches such as simple hygiene, education about spreading germs, and the cleaning of physical environments. The authors also urge doctors to use care in prescribing antibiotics. That's key because it was the widespread and inappropriate prescribing of those drugs for ailments like colds (which are caused by a virus and can't be "cured" by antibiotics) which is believed to have caused bacteria to become antibiotic-resistant in the first place.

The CMAJ report says, because healthcare workers are the main mode of transmission, they should be the number one target of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection prevention strategies. Simple but thorough hand washing with alcohol-based hand rubs or soap and water is the most essential part of infection control. The authors of the review also state that precautions, such as wearing gowns and gloves, should always be used by doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers in caring for people with diarrhea, cystic fibrosis or draining wounds.

"Since most cases of transmission in ambulatory care are a result of deficient infection-control practices, strict adherence to recommendations is paramount," write the authors.

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