The Department of Veterans Affairs appears to be making significant progress on preventing the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections at hospitals and long-term care facilities, after an infection control initiative was implemented at medical centers run by the VA.
In a study published in the January 2017 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, researchers note that Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) rates have dropped substantially in recent years at VA hospitals, following the implementation of screening, increased hygiene practices and precautions, as well as other infection control measures.
Researchers used monthly data from a national database involving 127 acute care facilities, 22 spinal cord injury units (SCIUs), and 133 long-tern-care facilities (LTCFs) run by the Department of Veteran Affairs from October 2007 through September 2015.
According to the findings, MRSA hospital-acquired infections plummeted 87% in intensive care units (ICUs) during that time, 80.1% in non-ICUs, 80.9% in SCIUs, and 49.4% in LTCFs.
The researchers credit the initiative with much of the success. The initiative included placing a MRSA prevention coordinator at each facility; screening patients on admission, when they were transferred between units and when discharged; putting contact precautions in place for those with MRSA colonies or infections; adhering to strict hand-washing guidelines, and making MRSA prevention a duty for all staff.
“Understanding how and why rates of MRSA have diminished in recent years is essential for the continued progress of effective prevention programs,” lead study author, Dr. Martin E. Evans, said in a VA press release. “As we seek to protect patients from MRSA and other resistant organisms, our study supports the need for strong infection prevention programs at every healthcare facility.”
In 2013, a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found similar reductions at hospitals, linked to similar preventative actions.
The CDC report identified four tactics required for halting the spread of current drug-resistant infections and preventing new ones from being born:
- Preventing infections and thus preventing the spread of drug resistance.
- Tracking resistance patterns
- Improving use of current antibiotics
- Developing new antibiotics and test to detect drug-resistant infections
More than 2 million hospital infections and 1.5 million nursing home and long term care infections occur each year, according to the CDC.
In recent years, an increasing number of medical malpractice lawsuits over hospital infections are being filed, as many experts believe that these infections can be prevented with the exercise of reasonable care.