Despite many preventive measures, outbreaks with multidrug-resistant microorganisms (MDROs) still occur. Moreover, current alert systems from healthcare organizations have shortcomings due to delayed or incomplete notifications, which may amplify the spread of MDROs by introducing infected patients into a new healthcare setting and institutions. Additional sources of information about upcoming and current outbreaks, may help to prevent further spread of MDROs.
The objective of the study by van de Belt, et al. (2018) was to evaluate whether methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) outbreaks could be detected via social media posts or online search behavior; if so, this might allow earlier detection than the official notifications by healthcare organizations.
The researchers conducted an exploratory study in which we compared information about MRSA outbreaks in the Netherlands derived from two online sources, Coosto for Social Media, and Google Trends for search behavior, to the mandatory Dutch outbreak notification system (SO-ZI/AMR). The latter provides information on MDRO outbreaks including the date of the outbreak, micro-organism involved, the region/location, and the type of healthcare organization.
During the research period of 15 months (455 days), 49 notifications of outbreaks were recorded in SO-ZI/AMR. For Coosto, the number of unique potential outbreaks was 37 and for Google Trends 24. The use of social media and online search behaviour missed many of the hospital outbreaks that were reported to SO-ZI/AMR, but detected additional outbreaks in long-term care facilities.
Despite several limitations, the researchers say that using information from social media and online search behavior allows rapid identification of potential MRSA outbreaks, especially in healthcare settings with a low notification compliance. When combined in an automated system with real-time updates, this approach might increase early discovery and subsequent implementation of preventive measures.
Reference: van de Belt TH, et al. Social media posts and online search behavior as early-warning system for MRSA outbreaks. Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control20187:69