An Ounce of Prevention: How to Reduce Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Posted Feb 27, 2024 under:

Fighting the Threat of Antibiotic Resistance

The spread of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” poses increasing dangers for vulnerable patients in healthcare facilities.

H. Pylori

Building Safeguards Against Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Better antibiotic prescribing practices, patient education, stringent cleaning protocols and isolation measures can help clinical settings contain antibiotic-resistant pathogens to protect patients.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose an escalating danger, especially in clinical settings like hospitals and nursing homes. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics, along with inadequate sanitation, have allowed bacteria to mutate and create “superbugs” that resist treatment. If current trends continue, common injuries and illnesses may grow more difficult to treat, cause more serious complications, and claim more lives.

Discover more about the drivers behind this rising crisis, the importance of antibiotic stewardship, and key measures healthcare providers can take to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in clinical settings.

Causes Behind Antibiotic Resistance

Overuse & Misuse of Antibiotics

The recent increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria is driven by antibiotic overprescribing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Whether antibiotics are prescribed for debilitating infections or viral colds, they apply significant evolutionary pressure on bacteria. With constant exposure to the antibiotics designed to eliminate them, these bacteria have more opportunities to mutate into resistant strains that then emerge, concentrate, and spread within healthcare facilities, placing vulnerable patients at risk.

Patient misuse of antibiotics also contributes to the issue of resistant bacteria. When sick patients fail to finish a full antibiotic course as prescribed, it eliminates weaker pathogens while allowing the strongest mutants to multiply quickly. These survivors – now with evolved defenses against that antibiotic – pass their traits on to subsequent generations and interchange resistance genes with other strains. As a result, partially treated patient infections may rebound in a more resistant, deadlier form.

Inadequate Hygiene & Infection Control

Poor sanitization procedures and infection control processes can significantly increase the transmission of these bacteria between patients. Without thorough disinfection strategies, hand hygiene, or practices to prevent spread via contaminated objects, surfaces, or staff, resistant bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels. Ultimately, any form of environmental contamination can allow these organisms to survive and multiply.

Strategies to Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Clinical settings can apply multiple evidence-based defenses against resistant bacteria, including:

Antibiotic Stewardship

The CDC advises healthcare facilities to implement antibiotic stewardship programs to guide evidence-based prescribing. Physicians must carefully evaluate whether a patient truly needs antibiotics based on test results, treatment guidelines, and data on effective options for that illness. This careful approach limits the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics for colds, flu, and viral illnesses.  

Patient Education

Initiative-taking patient education fosters shared understanding and cooperation vital for combating antibiotic resistance. When treating a patient, physicians should clearly communicate that antibiotics only fight bacterial infections, not viral ones causing colds or flu. Directly addressing this common misconception may help curb antibiotic requests for viral illnesses. Healthcare providers should also emphasize to patients the importance of completing the full prescribed antibiotic course, even if initial symptoms resolve.

Hygiene & Disinfection Procedures

According to the CDC, thorough hygiene and disinfection policies can significantly reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from contaminated objects or surfaces. These procedures include correctly sterilizing medical equipment between uses, maintaining separate clean and contaminated work areas, disinfecting frequent hand-contact sites regularly, and continuous staff education on proper hygiene techniques, specifically hand washing.

Infection Control Policies

The CDC also emphasizes the importance of infection control policies and isolation strategies to control antibiotic-resistant bacteria and inform infection control measures. Screening new patients at admission is vital to identify and isolate those with existing drug-resistant infections that may require additional precautions. Requiring medical gowns, gloves, and masks for staff before interacting with isolated patients or patient groups adds another layer of safety, as does strict handwashing compliance to avoid transmitting resistant bacteria to vulnerable groups.

The Role of Ambulatory Surgical Centers

Ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) offer a safer alternative for outpatient procedures like endoscopies or colonoscopies, with around one-tenth the infection rate of hospitals. Strict disinfection protocols and barriers between sterile and contaminated areas allow these facilities to minimize environmental transmission risks and provide more specialized infection control.

Furthermore, because ASCs specialize in performing procedures on patients generally in good health and less prone to comorbidities, they avoid exposure to general populations more likely to carry resistant infections. Exclusively managing these low-risk cases also means shorter procedures and faster healing trajectories. As antibiotic resistance rises across the globe, choosing ASCs for outpatient procedures over conventional hospitals may both reduce patient infection risk and limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Resources:

Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services: https://health.mo.gov/safety/antibioticresistance/generalinfo.php

Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21655-antibiotic-resistance

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/healthcare-providers.html; https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/core-elements/hospital.html; https://www.cdc.gov/handhygiene/providers/guideline.html; https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/index.html

National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3799537/; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7532064/; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10336207/

John Hopkins Medicine: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/antibiotics

Insights Tab: https://insights.sca.health/insight/article/quick-read-5-key-benefits-of-ascs

Becker’s ASC: https://www.beckersasc.com/asc-quality-infection-control/the-difference-in-infection-rates-between-hospitals-and-ascs-5-takeaways.html

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