Right now there is a lot of attention being given to a group of bacteria called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). There have been two outbreaks reported by news outlets so far. FIrst, there was an outbreak at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center linked to procedures with a contaminated endoscope resulting in two deaths and possibly many more infections. More recently, there was an outbreak at the Carolinas HealthCare System where 18 people this year have been reported with CRE.
Today's post will look at the team in the trenches, the boots on the ground, the hands-on technicians: Environmental Services.
By their very nature, hospitals both serve the most vulnerable people and host the most powerful germs. How do hospitals maintain safe levels of cleanliness in this challenging environment? The short answer is through rigorous planning and meticulous staff, all being organized into a myriad of activities and schedules by the conductor of this symphony, infection control. Let's take a closer look at the behind-the-scenes orchestration through two very important teams.
Superbugs, or antibiotic-resistant bacteria, are posing an increasingly difficult challenge for healthcare facilities. Some bacteria are resistant to certain classes of antibiotics. Some are resistant to all but the strongest, and often most expensive, antibiotics. These superbugs are called MDR, multiple-drug-resistant. Others still, while very rare, are resistant to all known antibiotics. One example, carbapanem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) is resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics, has high mortality rates, and can easily spread its superpowers to neighboring organisms.
So how do we keep helping create these superbugs that are so hard to kill? And what can we do about it?
In our last post, we explored the way mutations in bacteria can result in antibiotic resistance. If a mutation helps a bacteria survive its environment, it passes that strength on to future generations, who also survive. Pretty simple. But did you know that bacteria can also transfer their resistant genes to neighboring bacteria, just like mailing them a letter?
"Superbugs," or antibiotic-resistant bacteria, have been in the news a lot lately. These types of bacteria can cause infections that are very difficult to treat since they are not killed by conventional antibiotics. While most of them can be eradicated, it requires very powerful (and costly) antibiotics. And most terrifying, we play a role in creating these superbugs. To see how, we first need to understand how bacteria reproduce and how they adapt (and share that adaptation to their surrounding buddies).
As a general consumer, one most likely has little need to know the difference between a treated article claim and a public health claim. However, as a consumer for products for healthcare communities, including those that make claims about antimicrobial, biocidal, or infection control supports, it's essential to know the difference. Here is a quick overview.
While the general population may use terms like sterilizer, disinfectant and sanitizer interchangeably, they actually have very specific definitions according to the government agency that regulates them, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These definitions include what percentage of pathogens must be killed, in what specific amount of time they must be killed, and what protocols must be tested to achieve registration. All of these parameters are defined by the EPA and are not chosen or designated by the manufacturer.
Whenever a product with EPA-registered Public Health Claims puts those claims in writing, you'll see an * or t after the word bacteria or germs. For example, "XYZ kills >99.9% of harmful bacteria* in under two hours." You'll find this on the labels of cleaning products in your home, as well as on industrial strength cleaners found in hospitals or other healthcare facilities. What does it mean?