In News & Views, The Built Environment

Following global reports of an ageing population, there is now immense pressure on healthcare facilities worldwide to accommodate elderly patients with compromised immune systems. Nursing homes in particular are often occupied by many susceptible people- sharing eating and living accommodation means outbreaks of bacterial infections can occur fairly easily- posing a serious threat to the welfare of occupants, visitors and staff and lending to severe economic implications.

Recent research on superbugs in care homes has indicated that antibiotic-resistant versions of common pathogens often don’t work alone but seem to cooperate, working together to establish infections.

Scientists at the University of Michigan studied hundreds of nursing home patients and concluded that it may be more accurate to regard pathogens, including antibiotic resistant bacteria, as a distinct ecosystem in healthcare environments, not just individual strains that happen to be present (1).

Forty percent of the 234 patients included in the study harboured at least two superbugs, or multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO). These patients were more likely to develop infections than patients with only one type of MDRO. It is these findings that should lend support to healthcare providers in nursing homes and elsewhere making better choices with regards to antibiotic therapy; for example, not just aiming to clear up an existing infection, but working to avoid a secondary infection by another MDRO. It is the indiscriminate use of antibiotics that was, and continues to be, the major cause of bacteria developing widespread resistance to antibiotics. However, expecting healthcare providers to modify their prescribing practice of antibiotics in a significant manner is ambitious and probably unrealistic in the short term. In the face of this and other challenges of a relatively quick fix to MDROs, the role of prophylactic, that is, preventative technologies as opposed to treatment of established infections is considered as an appropriate supporting strategy. In other words, deploy technologies in healthcare that reduce the chances of patients acquiring MDROs in the first place.

Of course, antibacterial technology already exists and has been scientifically measured for its ability to decontaminate nursing homes and hospitals. It is not, nor is it intended to be, the solution to MDROs in healthcare settings; but then no single technology or strategy is the answer in isolation. Deploying a combination of the most effective technologies and strategies, such as regular hand-washing, thorough cleaning routines and antimicrobial surfaces, can form a more effective solution to the wider problem. BioCote® Antimicrobial Technology in particular has already been applied as a permanent feature in several healthcare environments, resulting in significant reductions in pathogenic bacteria such as MRSA. Take a look at our care home case study.

If you are a facilities manager for a healthcare facility, or a manufacturer of products and surfaces supplied into hygiene-critical environments, contact BioCote® today to understand more about how our antimicrobial technology can help you to make a more hygienic offering.

  1. Joyce Wang, Betsy Foxman, Lona Mody, Evan S. Snitkin. Network of microbial and antibiotic interactions drive colonization and infection with multidrug-resistant organisms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201710235
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