Category Archives: Bacteria

Mar 6 2013

Public Health News Roundup: March 6

Study: Tech-based Aids Can Prevent Costly Mistakes, Delayed Diagnoses
Technology-based health care aids may help physicians and prevent costly mistakes and delayed diagnoses, according to a new review of evidence in Annals of Internal Medicine. Examples of effective aids include text message alerts sent to doctors, computer programs that use symptoms to generate lists of possible diagnoses and policies that reward doctors who make accurate diagnoses. "I think there's a general feeling that we're probably going to need multiple strategies," David Newman-Toker, MD, who studies diagnostic errors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and was not involved in the study, told Reuters. "Ultimately I think the biggest bang for the buck is going to come out of decision-based computer support of one kind or another, but it's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be tomorrow." Read more on technology.

Checklist Could Help Older Americans Estimate Whether They’ll Live Another Decade
A new checklist in the Journal of the American Medical Association could estimate whether people age 50 and older will still be alive in 10 years. The checklist is designed to help health care providers and patients make better decisions. The 12 factors were determined through an analysis of data from a national study of nearly 20,000 U.S. adults older than 50. They include age, sex, weight, smoking, the presence of diabetes, lung disease, heart disease and certain physical limitations. Read more on aging.

CDC: Lethal, Drug-resistant Bacteria Spreading in U.S. Healthcare Facilities
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) March 2013 Vital Signs report, a family of bacteria called Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) has become increasingly resistant to last-resort antibiotics during the past decade, and more hospitalized patients are contracting infections that in some cases cannot be cured. CRE are usually transmitted from person-to-person, often on the hands of health care workers. During just the first half of 2012, almost 200 hospitals and long-term acute care facilities treated at least one patient infected with these bacteria. 

Currently, almost all CRE infections occur in people receiving significant medical care in hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, or nursing homes. “CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH.

Last year, CDC published a CRE prevention toolkit with recommendations for hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, nursing homes and health departments. Key recommendations include:

  • Enforcing use of infection control precautions (standard and contact precautions)
  • Grouping patients with CRE together
  • Dedicating staff, rooms and equipment to the care of patients with CRE, whenever possible
  • Having facilities alert each other when patients with CRE transfer back and forth
  • Asking patients whether they have recently received care somewhere else (including another country)
  • Using antibiotics wisely

In addition, CDC recommends screening patients in certain scenarios to determine whether they are carrying CRE. Because of the way CRE can be carried by patients from one health care setting to another, facilities are encouraged to work together regionally to implement CRE prevention programs. In some parts of the world, CRE appear to be more common, and evidence shows they can be controlled. Read more on bacteria.

Dec 19 2012

Public Health News Roundup: December 19

FDA Approves Drug to Treat Inhalational Anthrax
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a monoclonal antibody to treat inhalational anthrax, a form of the infectious disease caused by breathing in the spores of the bacterium Bacillus anthraces. “In addition to antibiotics, raxibacumab will be a useful treatment to have available should an anthrax bioterrorism event occur,” said Edward Cox, MD, MPH, director of the Office of Antimicrobial Products in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Although antibiotics are approved to prevent and treat anthrax infection, raxibacumab is the first approved agent that acts by neutralizing the toxins produced by B. anthracis.” The safety of raxibacumab was evaluated in 326 healthy human volunteers. Common side effects included rash, extremity pain, itching and drowsiness. Read more on bacteria.

Men More Likely than Women to Die in Car Crashes
A new study in the online journal Injury Prevention finds that male pedestrians hit by cars are more than twice as likely to die as women hit by vehicles. The researchers studied U.S. travel and traffic data for 2008 and 2009 for people over the age of 5. According to researchers, more study is needed to determine why men die at higher rates than women in pedestrian crashes. Reasons may include drunken male walkers and men walking along highways and other roads that carry cars at high speeds. Read more on injury prevention.

Concerns about Hair May Keep African-American Women from Exercising
New research finds that about a third of African-American women say concern over hair care is the reason they don’t exercise or exercise less than they should, according to Amy J. McMichael, MD, the lead author of the study published online today in the Archives of Dermatology, a JAMA network publication. For the study, 103 African-American women ranging in age from 21 to 60 filled out a 40-question survey that asked about physical activity; hair care and maintenance; and hair and scalp concerns. While all of the respondents thought it was important to exercise, 40 percent reported avoiding exercise at times due to hair-related issues. Half said they had modified their hairstyle to accommodate exercise. The researchers say that many African American women with coarser hair use either heat straighteners or chemical products to straighten their hair, which is a time-consuming process that doesn’t allow them to simply wash their hair after exercise. According to the lead researcher, a professor of dermatology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, over-washing fragile hair can make it break off easily. Read more on physical activity.

Sep 25 2012

Public Health News Roundup: September 25

Health Insurers Now Providing User-friendly Benefit Guides
Starting this week, health insurers will provide patients with user-friendly guides that clearly explain their benefits. The goal of the new law is to enable “the private insurance market's 163 million beneficiaries to make side-by-side comparisons of plan offerings,” according to Reuters. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a sample benefits form demonstrating the new standardized format. Read more on access to health care.

Inconsistencies in Antibiotic Prescriptions Could Contribute to Increased Resistance
Inconsistencies in how U.S. seniors are prescribed antibiotics could be contributing to increased bacterial resistance, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The information was compiled from Medicare records. Seniors in some areas of the country average less than one prescription a year, while others averaged between one and two, suggesting overuse in some areas. "Once you get resistance to those broad spectrum antibiotics, next time you have anything where you really need that, it's not going to be as effective," said Yuting Zhang, the study's lead author. Read more on bacteria.

Task Force Recommends Screening, Intervention to Combat Alcohol Abuse
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that doctors make questions about drinking habits a part of routine patient visits. It is also recommending they provide alcohol abuse counseling. The task force found screening and intervention to be effective public health tactics in adults ages 18 and older. The new recommendations are in line with the task force’s 2004 guidelines, according to HealthDay. "The overarching message is the same as it was back then,” said Michael LeFevre, MD, co-vice chair for the task force. “At least in the adult population, the evidence shows that clinicians can help men and women who are drinking in ways that are not healthy to change those habits." Read more on alcohol.

Aug 29 2012

Public Health News Roundup: August 29

Post-storm Food Precautions from the USDA
As residents of four states hunker down to face Hurricane Isaac, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urges anyone in the storm’s path to take precautions when using and preparing food after a severe storm. According to the USDA, power outages and flooding from weather emergencies compromise the safety of stored food. While people still have power, it is a good idea to access and download A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes. USDA also has dedicated Twitter accounts with updated information on food preparation during and after the current severe weather: @FL_FSISAlert for Florida, @MS_FSISAlert for Mississippi and @LA_FSISAlert for Louisiana. USDA also has a “virtual representative”—Karen—available 24/7 online  and on smartphones. Consumers can also find a live representative at the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline by calling 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. Operators speak English and Spanish. Read regular updates from the National Hurricane Center.

Marijuana Use by Teens Impacts Intelligence Later On
Regular marijuana use by teens who continue the drug use into their adulthood can lead to an average drop in IQ of eight points, according to a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study looked at more than 1,000 New Zealanders born in 1972 or 1973 who were tested at the ages of 13 and again at 38. The average IQ is 100, or the 50th percentile; an IQ of 92 would drop someone to the 29th percentile. “As an adolescent, your brain hasn’t fully developed. It’s undergoing some critical developmental changes,” said study author Madeline Meier, a postdoctoral research associate in psychology and neurology at Duke University, according to HealthDay. “This research suggests that because of that you are vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on your brain. If you start using as an adolescent and you keep using it, you are going to lose some of your mental abilities.” Read more on substance abuse.

Legionnaires’ Deaths and Illnesses Linked to Chicago Hotel
An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in an outbreak linked to a Chicago Marriott hotel has led to two people dying and six others falling ill, according to Reuters. Officials with the national hotel chain have contacted 80 percent of the approximately 8,500 people who stayed at the hotel from July 16 to August 16. Kathleen Ritger, MD, Medical Director over Communicable Disease at the Chicago Department of Public Health, has said there is “no ongoing health threat” at the location. Legionnaires’—a type of pneumonia—starts with high fever, chills and a cough and can lead to death in between 5 percent and 30 percent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on infectious diseases.

Jun 6 2011

Public Health News Roundup: June 6

German E.Coli Outbreak Linked to Organic Sprouts

The New York Times has reported that organically grown sprouts appear to be the culprit food source in the German e.coli outbreak. Four people have died and thousands have fallen ill, including four Americans who recently traveled to Germany. The Food and Drug Administration also announced, in an email to reporters late Sunday evening, that it was stepping up inspections of imported lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and sprouts.

New Yearly HIV Cases Fall by 25% Between 2001 and 2009

This June marks thirty years since the first cases of AIDS were reported in the U.S. and worldwide, and the news about the disease is encouraging. The number of new HIV cases reported each year fell 25% between 2001 and 2009, according to a press release from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. Researchers say they attribute the drop in HIV cases to safer sex behaviors among men and women, in part because of increased awareness and prevention campaigns.

Partner Support Helps Latino Smokers Quit Smoking

Latinos trying to quit smoking may be more successful if they have a partner to provide support, according to researchers at the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. The study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, included 131 Latino smokers. Over 75% were female and smoked an average of 11 cigarettes a day. The participants also averaged three quit attempts.

Morning Workouts Help Improve Sleep

A new, though small, study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine finds that morning exercise may improve night time sleep habits, according to a news release issued by the College. Researchers at the Appalachian State University studied the effects of exercise timing on the sleep patterns of six male and three female study participants. Each was monitored on a treadmill three times—in the early morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. At night, each wore a sleep-monitoring headband to measure sleep stage time and quality of sleep. Using data from the sleep monitors, researchers found that morning exercisers had greater rates of light and deep sleep and a 20 percent increase in sleep cycle frequency. Increased sleep has been linked to improve health factors, including increased weight loss for people trying to lose weight.

May 23 2011

Graduation Handshakes Don't Pose Too Great a Public Health Risk

file Courtesy Johns Hopkins. Lead investigator Dr. David Bishai at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health swabs a school official's hand to look for harmful bacteria after graduation handshakes.

Headed to a graduation? Go ahead. Shake the dean’s hand. A new study by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, published recently in the Journal of School Nursing, finds that hand-shaking isn’t necessarily as bacteria-infested as commonly thought.

A team of researchers examined the risk of acquiring highly infectious bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) through shaking hands at graduation ceremonies across Maryland. The researchers swabbed participants’ hands before and immediately following graduations to identify any infectious strains, and found 93 percent of samples contained non harmful bacteria.

“A single handshake offers only a small risk of acquiring harmful bacteria,” said David Bishai, a professor at the school, in a Johns Hopkins release. “Our study indicates when shaking hands, the rate of hand contamination among graduating students to be 100 times lower than the 17 percent rate observed among health workers caring for patients known to be harboring MRSA.”

You’re less likely to catch MRSA at graduation, say the researchers, because a handshake offers a very brief exposure and graduating students are less likely than hospital patients to be infected with serious bacteria. But keep shaking. The researchers say subsequent handshakes may rid acquired bacteria from your hands.

And despite the low risk of acquiring the bacteria studies, don’t say no to hand sanitizer. Says Bishai: “Individuals who already engage in hand hygiene after handshaking should not be dissuaded from this practice.”

One other option: Pandemic flu a couple of years back gave some attention in the U.S. to greeting by bumping elbows, a custom often practiced in countries where shaking hands could pose a life-threatening health risk—for example, in countries impacted by the Ebola virus. This Facebook page offers some elbow-bumping etiquette tips.