NOV 08, 2020 7:37 AM PST

Drug-Resistant Microbes Persist in Hospitals After Deep Cleaning

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Researchers have found that drug-resistant bacteria can hang around even after deep cleaning. They used genomic sequencing to identify the level of certain microbes that are present in healthcare settings and can cause illness in some people. The results revealed the extent to which a drug-resistant bacterium can persist within a hospital, and highlighted the challenge hospitals face in controlling infections. The findings have been reported in Nature Microbiology.

An SEM image depicting Enterococcus sp. bacteria. / Credit: Modified content from CDC/ Janice Haney Carr

Enterococcus faecium is a bacterium that is able to live harmlessly in the human gastrointestinal tract, but people with weak immune systems can experience problems if they're infected with it. While antibiotics can eliminate these infections, there are strains of the microbe that resist the effects of antibiotics, making them much tougher to eliminate in people with symptomatic infections.

In this work, the researchers assessed E. faecium prevalence in hospitals.

"We've known for over two decades that patients in hospital can catch and spread drug-resistant E. faecium. Preventing its spread requires us to understand where the bacteria lives—its 'reservoirs' - and how it is transmitted," said the co-first study author Dr. Theodore Gouliouris from the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge.

"Most studies to date have relied on culturing the bacteria from samples. But as we've shown, whole-genome sequencing—looking at the DNA of the bacteria—combined with detailed patient and environmental sampling can be a powerful tool to help us chart its spread and inform ways to prevent further outbreaks."

The study authors followed 149 people over six months that had been admitted to the hospital. The researchers looked for the presence of E. faecium by culturing swabs and samples from the patients, and sequencing the DNA they found. Genomic assays showed that about two-thirds of the 101 patients followed throughout the study were found to be carrying E. faecium, while cultures revealed the presence of the microbes in only half of the patients.

E. faecium that can resist the effects of the antibiotic vancomycin was found in about half of the swabs from the clinical environment, including 36 percent of medical devices, 41 percent of bed spaces, and 68 percent of communal bathrooms.

Deep cleaning was not able to effectively remove the bacteria. After the process in one ward, nine percent of the samples still showed that the microbe was present. Within three days of patients coming back to the ward, samples that tested positive went up to nearly 50 percent.. Six patients in the study had been carrying E. faecium in their gut without symptoms of infection, but developed them later.

"Our study builds on previous observations that drug-resistant strains of E. faecium can persist in the hospital environment despite standard cleaning. We were still surprised to find how short-lasting was the effect of deep cleaning," said Dr. Gouliouris.

"The high rates of infection with drug-resistant E. faecium in specific vulnerable patient groups and its ability to evade cleaning measures pose an important challenge to infection control. Patient screening, adequate provision of isolation and ensuite toilet facilities, improved and more frequent cleaning procedures, and stricter health-care worker hygiene practices will all be needed to curtail this global epidemic," said senior study author Professor Sharon Peacock from the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge.
 
"But this is also a sign of how urgently we need to tackle inappropriate use of antibiotics worldwide, which is widely recognized as posing a catastrophic threat to our health and our ability to control infections."

Sources: Phys.org via University of Cambridge, Nature Microbiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 27, 2020
Cardiology
Are Dry Mouth and Hypertension Connected?
AUG 27, 2020
Are Dry Mouth and Hypertension Connected?
Dry mouth is one of those things you sort of ignore until you can refill your water bottle. Maybe you should take a seco ...
SEP 23, 2020
Cancer
Can Increased Pain Indicate Oral Cancer?
SEP 23, 2020
Can Increased Pain Indicate Oral Cancer?
The human body has many ways of letting you know something is wrong. It can send signals to tell you that you are hungry ...
OCT 01, 2020
Microbiology
Investigating the Origins of a Cholera Epidemic
OCT 01, 2020
Investigating the Origins of a Cholera Epidemic
Cholera is an intestinal infection caused by Vibrio cholerae. Cholera has been a scourge throughout human history, and i ...
OCT 07, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Researchers Confirm Cerebral Palsy Has a Genetic Component
OCT 07, 2020
Researchers Confirm Cerebral Palsy Has a Genetic Component
Scientists have confirmed previous studies that have suggested that some cases of cerebral palsy are due to a genetic mu ...
NOV 12, 2020
Cardiology
Creating a Mouse Model to Test RBM20 Dependent Dilated Cardiomyopathy
NOV 12, 2020
Creating a Mouse Model to Test RBM20 Dependent Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Cardiovascular disease is something that, in most cases, is within our ability to control. A healthy diet and active lif ...
NOV 16, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Hidden Genes in the SARS-CoV-2 Genome
NOV 16, 2020
Hidden Genes in the SARS-CoV-2 Genome
It's essential for organisms to use their genomes to make proteins, and the processes of transcription and translation a ...
Loading Comments...