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Stopping the Scourge of Superbugs



Now that he’s retired from the field of medical research, Joe Baxter has picked up freelance writing. He particularly enjoys writing about medical journals. Apart from writing, he spends the rest of his free time traveling abroad and working in his woodshop.

Superbugs are on the rampage in our nation’s hospitals. Their prevalence has recently caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue an alert to hospitals of the emerging drug-resistant bug. This particular bug, known as CRE, is a member of the Enterobacteriaceae family.

Other superbugs include MRSA and C. diff. MRSA is responsible for killing 19,000 people each year in the U.S. alone. C. diff ravages the intestines and is reported to have killed more than 30,000 a year and infects about half a million individuals a year. Often these superbugs thrive in the very places people go to get healthy, our hospitals.

As a result, hospitals are at the forefront of the battle against stopping the proliferation of superbugs. But doing so is viewed as a costly and labor-intensive effort. With the recent economic downturn, many hospitals have reduced staff in such areas as housekeeping, the very ones needed for a successful fight against superbugs.

What can hospitals do?

Track and limit the use of antibiotics that allow for the proliferation of bugs like C. diff. The bacteria actually thrive in environments where antibiotics are widely used. By monitoring the use of antibiotics hospitals can reduce the number of infections. This procedure is tough to implement in places like nursing homes where the use of antibiotics is high and there isn’t enough available staff to enforce antibiotic protocols.

Infection control and housekeeping. The best means of preventing the spread of superbugs is simply to keep areas sanitized. This also includes a diligent effort by hospital staff to keep their hands clean.

In addition to incorporating these protocols in hospitals, new methods of stopping the spread of these pathogens are on the horizon. Some of these are listed below.

HINS-light Environmental Decontamination System

Light is now being used to make superbugs essentially self-destruct. This system works by using specific light waves to excite molecules within the superbugs. This light treatment produces a chemical reaction within the bacterial which kills it. This method, which is harmless to humans, is effective on such drug-resistant bacteria as MRSA and C. diff.

Implementation of this lighting system allows for the continuous disinfecting of wards and isolation rooms. Such continuous disinfecting has not been available before.

Shutting down MSRA’s CPU

Canadian researchers have found that by preventing a specific chemical within the MSRA from synthesizing, they can effectively render the bug harmless. By shutting down specific chemicals within the bacteria, it becomes non-infectious.

A coating that kills MSRA

An enzyme found in the Staph bacteria is being used to create a coating for surgical equipment that kills MSRA. The enzyme, lysostaphin naturally kills off superbugs and is now being mixed with paint to coat surgical equipment. The paint, which is not toxic to other cells, can be washed without affecting its ability to kill MRSA.

Superbugs are a growing problem with no easy solutions. However, new developments in clinical research are proving useful in helping to control or eradicate them. In addition, employing proactive procedures in our medical facilities will also help to curb this scourge and keep our hospitals a place for healing and not a place of infection.