Healthcare News & Insights

Could neighboring hospital affect your prevelance of a superbug?

Your hospital is probably all too familiar with vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) – a common bacteria that causes infections in hospitals. And while your staff takes steps to keep this superbug from spreading at your facility, you’re probably not too concerned with what’s going on at other facilities in your area. Why should you be?

154250821Here’s why: A recent study found that a moderate increase of VRE at one hospital can cause an average 2.8% increase of VRE at every other facility in that county. And a hospital in the most populated area of a county, has an even greater likelihood of spreading VRE to other facilities.

Reason: VRE can maintain a presence in the body, without the person showing any signs of illness or infection, for a long period of time. So even after patients are released from the hospital or transferred to another facility, they can be harboring VRE and spread it.


Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, University of Pittsburgh, and University of California, Irvine, created the Regional Healthcare Ecosystem Analyst (RHEA), a mathematical and computational model, to track the movement between hospitals of VRE-colonized patients (patients carrying the organism but not yet infected) over the course of a year in Orange County, CA.

They used 2006-2007 patient level admission and transfer data for 29 adult acute care hospitals.

Not only did the study, which was in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, undercover an increase of VRE in surrounding hospitals, but it also found a “free-riders” effect — where hospitals experience decreases (24.7% average) in VRE incidence due to other hospitals’ infection control efforts without initiating any prevention measure of their own.

Patient-sharing data

The study points to the underutilization of patient-sharing data among regional hospitals, and the importance of inter-hospitals communication and collaboration to decrease the prevalence of VRE. The researchers believe that developing regional control programs, coordinating VRE control campaigns and performing regional research studies could favorably influence regional VRE prevalence.

The final take away the researchers emphasized was the extended time period needed for epidemiology studies and surveillance. As their study indicated, the effects of a moderate rise in endemic VRE prevalence in one hospital can take months and even years to fully manifest across a region, so current effects may reflect changes and control policies implemented in neighboring facilities some time ago.



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