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Hospital Infections Are Declining, But More Focus is Still Needed On C. Diff, Pneumonia: CDC Researchers

The findings of a new study suggest that hospital-acquired infections are on the decline, but researchers warn that strategies to prevent C. difficile infections and pneumonia still need to be strengthened. 

Researchers with the Emerging Infections Program conducted a study funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found a drop in hospital infections across the country from 2011 to 2015. The findings were published earlier this month in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study involved a review of data from 10 states, with 25 hospitals involved with each site. The hospitals participated in a 2011 survey, and each hospital was randomly sampled for one day.

Researchers compared medical records from 2011 looking for health care-associated infections, then compared those findings with data and a survey from 2015.

In 2011, data indicated that 4% of hospitalized patients had a health care-associated infection. However, the data form 2015, involving more than 12,000 patients in 199 hospitals, found only 3.2% suffered hospital-acquired infections. That represented a 16% decrease in patient infection risk from 2011 to 2015.

The data indicates that the reductions mainly came from a decline in surgical-site and urinary tract infections. However, the study found that pneumonia, surgical-site infections and gastrointestinal infections, the latter mostly caused by Clostridium difficile, were the most common cause of hospital infections.

“The prevalence of health care–associated infections was lower in 2015 than in 2011,” the researchers concluded. “To continue to make progress in the prevention of such infections, prevention strategies against C. difficile infection and pneumonia should be augmented.”

A study published in February warned that about 12% of all gastrointestinal surgeries result in surgical site infections worldwide, and that in one-fifth of those cases, the infections were antibiotic resistant.

In that study, researchers found that the failure to use a surgical safety checklist was linked to a high rate of surgical site infections. They also called for the careful implementation of World Health Organization recommendations on preventing surgical site infections, noting that the cost of preventative measures may be offset by the cost savings from having less infection incidents, and could reduce antibiotic overuse, which has become a major health concern in recent years.

Many hospital infections that were once treated with antibiotics are now resistant to those same drugs. Researchers estimate nearly 700,000 people around the world die from drug-resistant bacteria every year. A 2014 British report warned that antibiotic resistant bacteria will cause more than 10 million deaths globally every year by the year 2050, unless drastic measures are taken to mitigate the growing problem.

Other research indicates more than 23,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic resistant bacteria and 2 million become sick due to the so called superbugs every year.

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