Warm Weather Brings Risk of Resistant Hospital Infections

Oct 19, 2011, 1:19 AM

Two new articles from Extending the Cure, a Pioneer-supported project that examines solutions to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, advance our understanding of the growth and spread of certain lethal hospital infections and pose policies to address the long-term challenge of antibacterial resistance.

The first article, which appeared Sept. 26 in the online journal PLoS One, describes a new study that found certain potentially lethal hospital infections are more prevalent in warmer weather. In the study researchers examined 211,697 infections reported by 132 hospitals across the nation from 1999 to 2006. The warmer the temperature, the more hospitals reported certain hard-to-treat infections. The problem was particularly severe in the summer: For example, the researchers identified a 52 percent summer spike in bloodstream infections caused by Acinetobacter baumannii, a highly resistant “superbug.”

Hospitals should be on alert during warm weather in any season in order to identify and stop the spread of these resistant infections, the authors say.

In the second article Ramanan Laxminarayan, the director of Extending the Cure at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, and John H. Powers, associate clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine, argues that we need incentives to crank out newer, more powerful antibiotics and at the same time, preserve the efficacy of antibiotics we have left.

Writing in October issue of the journal Nature, they say that we must start treating antibiotics as a valuable resource, one that can be depleted with overuse and nurtured with public private partnerships(PPPs).  “In our view, government intervention through PPPs that are focused on the development of antibacterials with desirable properties, in combination with incentives to encourage the conservation of antibacterials and the achievement of resistance targets, is the best way to tackle the increasingly serious public health threat of antibacterial resistance.”

Leave a comment to tell us what you think public policy should focus on in the research, development and preservation of antibiotics.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.