Google Ventures’ Hot 7 [TTA 23 May] should be a Hot 8. Three recent articles have reminded this Editor that we are no further along in controlling nosocomial, or hospital-acquired, infections–and they are getting worse. They annually kill 75,000 US patients in hospitals and 375,000 patients in nursing homes. Those who get it and survive take months to fully recover, if they can.
- They keep multiplying. The US’ Eye on Infection, Betsy McCaughey, former NY State lieutenant governor, brings to attention a new one called Candida aureus, a fungus which kills 60 percent of patients it infects. It’s been detected in New York (15 hospitals so far), New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Illinois. It is carried on surfaces, sink drains, uniforms, clothing, skin, and devices, the last usually fatal to the patient. Patients can also be carriers.
- The spread of CRE (carbapenem-resistant bacteria) could be the future of Candida aureus. In 1999, it was first detected at Downstate Medical Center in NYC. By 2008 it reached 22 states and is now a nationwide threat.
- MRSA and MSSA are widespread, waxing and waning in outbreaks.
The problem has escalated to the point where Mark Sklansky, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has launched a pilot to ban handshakes in two UCLA neonatal intensive care units–and it’s being debated on whether it’s effective or just consciousness raising.
Ms McCaughey attributes this to lack of action by CDC, despite Congress, in staying with outdated guidelines for how to clean patients’ rooms, ignoring the potential of automatic room disinfection to save lives. CDC underestimates the impact through bad sampling. Hospitals under-report deaths from infection. State authorities are no better in their inaction.
A solution far more aggressive than banning handshakes is screen-and-clean. Israel’s drastically reduced CRE by 70 percent in one year from its 2007 outbreak. Even babies are screened. Automatic room disinfection is not a panacea, but architects have been tackling this in designs for future hospital rooms for years. The most recent concept this Editor saw was at last November’s NYeC Digital Health Conference.