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One in four seniors leave hospital, enter post-acute care with superbugs

March 15, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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One in four seniors leaves the hospital with antibiotic-resistant bacteria on their hands.

Those who head to a nursing home or other post-acute care facility will acquire new bacteria during their stay, according to findings published today in a "JAMA Internal Medicine" research letter.

Researchers from University of Michigan studied 357 seniors recently admitted from the hospital to several post-acute care facilities in southeast Michigan. Participants' hands were swabbed at admission, after two weeks and then monthly for up to six months or until they were discharged.

Twenty-four percent of study participants had at least one multidrug-resistant organism, or superbug, on their hands when they checked in. Thirty-four percent of participants had superbugs on their hands during follow-up visits. Those superbugs can be passed on to other frail residents and healthcare workers.

"We’ve been educating healthcare workers for decades about hand hygiene, and these numbers show it’s time to include patients in their own hand hygiene performance and education," says lead author Lona Mody, MD, MSc. in a university-issued press release. Mody is the associate chief for clinical and translational research at the University of Michigan Geriatrics Center and a research scientist at the Ann Arbor VA Geriatrics Research Education and Clinical Center.

Today's seniors want to be active, but when they leave their rooms, they're putting them at risk for acquiring new superbugs by coming in contact with common surfaces, healthcare workers and other residents. Frequent antibiotic use among residents also increases the likelihood that superbugs will spread in a post-acute care facility.

Mody says new policies and innovations are needed to stop the superbugs from spreading as more people come to post-acute care for short stays.

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