During the past 30 years, the proportion of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics has steeply risen. Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria change or adapt in a way that allows them to survive in the presence of antibiotics designed to kill them. A good example is the type of bacteria that cause Staphylococcus aureus infections. In 1972, only 2 percent of these types of bacteria were drug resistant.
By 2004, 63 percent of these types of bacteria had become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat them, and methicillin-resistant staph infections, often referred to as MRSA, are a growing problem in hospitals and healthcare facilities such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. In a few cases, bacteria become so resistant that no available antibiotics are effective against them.
"Effective and comprehensive programs to prevent drug-resistant infections are essential to improve patient safety," said Dr. Denise Cardo, director of CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. "Preventing these types of infections requires a constant and concerted effort on the part of healthcare facilities, but it's important they make this a priority. We need to reduce the number of these serious and potentially life-threatening infections-doing so helps patients get healthy and, most importantly, saves lives."
This new guidance, Management of Multidrug-Resistant Organisms in Healthcare Settings, was developed by internationally recognized experts in infection control in conjunction with CDC's Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), a committee comprised of external advisors from academic research institutions, public health and healthcare organizations to advise CDC regarding infection control, strategies for healthcare surveillance and prevention of healthcare-associated infections in the United States.
Staph infections, including MRSA, occur most frequently among persons in hospitals and healthcare facilities who have weakened immune systems, and often result in bloodstream infections, surgical site infections or pneumonia.
The new guidelines illustrate that in order to prevent and control antibiotic-resistant infections, hospitals and healthcare facilities need to take several steps including:
-- Ensuring prevention programs are funded and adequately staffed
-- Carefully tracking infection rates and related data to monitor the impact of prevention efforts
-- Ensuring that staff use standard infection control practices and follow guidelines regarding the correct use of antibiotics
-- Promoting best-practices with health education campaigns to increase adherence to established recommendations
-- Designing robust prevention programs customized to specific settings and local needs
If those recommendations don't improve rates, healthcare facilities must reevaluate and implement more stringent measures, including screening of all patients at high risk for carrying drug-resistant bacteria to make sure the correct precautions are used for the right patients.
"There's no one size fits all solution," said Dr. Patrick J. Brennan, chair of CDC's
Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. "Prevention of drug-resistant infections requires a full complement of actions tailored to the local setting."