Now Viewing: Hospital-acquired infections

CRE Bacteria: The Next Superbug Threat in Your Hospital

Apr 2, 2013, 8:30 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria illustration Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria illustration courtesy of the CDC

“Bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics faster than we can stop them. This problem is now a public health crisis: Infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria contribute to more than 99,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone – more than AIDS, traffic accidents, and the flu combined.

At RWJF, we believe today’s health care problems demand innovative solutions. Pioneer grantee Extending the Cure takes a unique approach, looking at this public health problem through an economic lens. They propose comprehensive, incentive-based solutions, such as creating incentives to discourage unnecessary antibiotic use and encourage the development of new drug therapies. ETC also recognizes that while we can't beat the bacteria, we can slow them down if we start to view antibiotics differently. Just like water or trees, we must treat these drugs as a natural resource that can be depleted with overuse.

We all have a role to play in making sure antibiotics are around when we need them. In this post on KevinMD, Dr. Daniel J. Morgan tells us what it’s like to face superbugs in the health care system and points out the critical role that hospitals can, and should, play in the effort to stop them.”  — Brian C. Quinn

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Got the Flu? Antibiotics Won’t Help (So Please Don’t Ask for Them)

Jan 28, 2013, 12:09 PM, Posted by Beth Toner

Beth Toner Beth Toner

One look at the latest flu map from the Centers for Disease Control tells you everything you need to know: We are smack-dab in the middle of flu season. Make no mistake: Influenza, at best, can make you miserable—and, at worst, kill you. If you are one of the many Americans suffering from the flu this season, you will probably try anything to get relief from your sore throat, high fever, body aches, and chills. But do us a favor: Please don’t ask your doctor for an antibiotic. There are medications—called antivirals—that may decrease your symptoms and shorten your illness by a day or two. Antibiotics, however, won’t help you if you have the flu. 

Antibiotics don’t fight infections that are caused by viruses, including influenza. Yet every year flu sufferers are prescribed antibiotics. According to a policy brief from Extending the Cure (ETC), a project funded by the Pioneer team, that researches and examines solutions to address antibiotic resistance, between 500,000 and 1 million antibiotic prescriptions are filled each flu season for patients who have the flu and no bacterial illness.

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Protecting a Valuable Natural Resource: Antibiotics

Nov 15, 2012, 4:15 PM, Posted by Ramanan Laxminarayan

Ramanan Laxminarayan Ramanan Laxminarayan

Antibiotics are a shared resource for protecting the public’s health. Since their introduction in 1941, antibiotics have saved millions of lives and transformed modern medicine. But the more you or I—or anyone—uses antibiotics when we don’t need them, the more we contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant microbes—and to the frightening prospect of a world where most infections don’t respond to antibiotics. If we don’t take collective action soon, this unthinkable scenario could become a reality.

To many who have heard these warnings before, antibiotic resistance seems like an evergreen issue that is always off in the distance. That is simply no longer true. We lose more people to just one kind of drug-resistant infection—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—than to HIV. The cumulative toll from all resistant infections in the United States is much greater. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to protect the arsenal that we have—those antibiotics that are still effective—to fight deadly pathogens.

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C. diff Infections: Worse Than We Thought

Aug 21, 2012, 1:20 PM, Posted by Ramanan Laxminarayan

Ramanan Laxminarayan Ramanan Laxminarayan

Infections caused by the dangerous microbe Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, are much more prevalent in hospitals and health care facilities than previously reported, according to an investigative front page story in last week’s USA Today. This bug is most often seen in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities. It causes severe diarrhea and intestinal problems that can worsen and even be fatal. The story cites a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who says annual fatalities may be as high as 30,000 per year, more than twice as high as some recent estimates.

The article accurately points to many reasons for this problem. Many hospital infection control programs aren’t stringent enough and C. diff reporting rates are poor. Hospitals need to be more prudent in their antibiotic use. C. diff thrives when healthy bacteria usually present in the intestines are wiped out by certain antibiotics patients take. In the absence of these healthy bacteria, C. diff can take over.

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Can Economics Solve the Antibiotic Resistance Crisis?

Jul 30, 2012, 4:30 PM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn / RWJF Brian Quinn

At RWJF, we fund grantees looking for innovative solutions to seemingly intractable health problems.  We take risks to test ideas and approaches that could lead to exponential changes that improve or even save lives.

One of the ways our Pioneer portfolio grantees size up complex public health issues is by using a novel lens to view an existing problem. That’s exactly the approach taken by Extending the Cure, a project that studies the growing problem of antibiotic resistance from an environmental economics perspective.

In a cover story in latest issue of the Milken Institute Review, Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of Extending the Cure, examines the growing – and frightening – problem of antibiotic resistance.  Laxminarayan suggests that antibiotic effectiveness should be viewed as a limited natural resource, one that can be depleted with overuse.  Just as we take steps to preserve clean air and water, we must also conserve antibiotics by using them only when absolutely necessary, he says.

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