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More than a quarter of all nursing home residents may carry colonies of multi-drug resistant bacteria on their bodies, increasing the risk of potentially deadly infections among an already vulnerable patient population, according to new research.
In a study published by the American Journal of Infection Control, researchers from Columbia University found that one-in-four individuals residing in a nursing home worldwide appear to be carriers for so-called “superbug” bacteria. However, the researchers also found that the prevalence was much higher in the United States than in other countries.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria can resist treatment by a number of drugs, making infections hard to treat. That also makes it easier for the infections to spread and become lethal to multiple patients. In most cases, finding colonies of such bacteria on a patient’s skin does not mean they are infected. However, it increases the risk of them contracting an infection if they receive an open wound from surgery, an accident or nursing home bedsores. It also increases the risk they will pass the bacteria on to other patients who may be more susceptible to an infection as well.
The study looked at multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria (MDR-GNB) by reviewing a number of observational studies from 2005 through 2016.
According to the findings, rates of MDR-GNB colonization varied from 11% to 59.1%, with an average of 27% of nursing home patients carrying colonies on their bodies. However, the rate for nursing homes in the U.S. was significantly higher than other countries, with 38% of U.S. nursing home patients carrying drug-resistant bacteria colonies.
Researchers determined that E. Coli that could resist a range of antibiotics were the most common bacteria found on patients. The most common sites for colonies of drug-resistant “superbugs” included the rectum. That was followed by nasal, sputum, urinary tract and wound colonies, in that order, researchers noted.
“Our findings suggest a high prevalence of MDR-GNB colonization among NH (nursing home) residents, emphasizing the need to enhance policies for infection control and prevention in NHs,” the researchers concluded.
The findings come a couple months after researchers from the same university warned that U.S. nursing homes were only conducting proper isolation procedures in about 13% of all cases of infections involving drug-resistant bacteria.
A 2011 study in the American Journal of Infection Control found that about 15% of U.S. nursing homes are cited every year for poor infection control. The study also found that there was a strong link between nursing home staffing levels and infection citations.
Nursing homes are expected to take proactive measures to protect residents from the risks of such infections, and failing to do so could be considered a sign of nursing home neglect.