A recent meta-analysis of 8 studies conducted between 2005-2016 has revealed that 27% of nursing home residents are infected with some form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The findings were published last week by Medline Plus, the National Institute of Health’s educational website.
Nursing Homes: A Perfect Breeding Ground for Bacteria
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, often referred to as superbugs, are worrisome to health care providers and nursing home residents and their loved ones because of the impact they can have on weakened immune systems. Nursing homes are considered a breeding ground for superbugs for various reasons. Unlike a hospital, nursing homes allow most of its residents to frequently come and go, share various spaces and rooms and even share food. Close living quarters, coupled with the fact that many of these powerful bacteria cause little or no symptoms, allow superbugs to be spread easily. Hand washing is considered the primary method of infection prevention, but controlling and preventing the spread of these superbugs will require more than just soap and water. Infection control experts believe the study’s findings have created a valuable opportunity for nursing homes to increase staff and resident education of infection prevention and control.
Past Practices Must Change
Part of the past difficulty in controlling the spread of superbugs is that it is difficult to pinpoint the source of the infections. While 90% of nursing home residents are direct transfers from hospitals, the other sources could come from anywhere. Instead, many experts agree that systemic change is the key to reducing the colonization of superbugs. Antibiotics are overprescribed beginning in childhood, a practice that continues well into the golden years. Doctors are giving antibiotics to children to calm parents who demand an antibiotic for viruses, they’re overprescribed for colds in patients of all ages, and they’re frequently given to the elderly, all of which we now know is responsible for the creation of superbugs. Had we not spent so many years relying on unnecessary antibiotics, many of the resistant strains would be nonexistent.
Perhaps with proper hand washing, improved training on infection control and prevention measures, and a diminished reliance on antibiotics, we can finally begin to eliminate some of the dangerous and deadly forms of superbugs plaguing our nursing homes and hospitals.