Drug-resistant E. coli infections are on the increase in small community hospitals, where more than half of U.S. patients receive their health care, researchers report.
The researchers analyzed data from 26 hospitals in the Southeast, and found that cases of drug-resistant E. coli infections doubled from 2009 to 2014 — from slightly more than 5 per 100,000 patients to 10.5 per 100,000 patients.
The median, or midpoint, age of patients infected with this E. coli strain was 72, according to the study published online Oct. 13 in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.
“We have always considered antibiotic-resistant organisms a problem at large hospitals,” senior study author Dr. Deverick Anderson, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., said in a university news release.
“This study goes a long way in demonstrating that the problems with antibiotic-resistant organisms occur in all health care settings, not just large ones. This is also one of the first papers to show these infections are increasing outside of the health care system in the community,” Anderson said.
“The larger issue speaks to antibiotics,” Anderson added. “Antibiotics are extremely important and useful in medical care, but we know we overuse them.”
Study lead author Dr. Joshua Thaden, a fellow in Duke’s division of infectious diseases, added that, “Overall, the majority of E. coli infections occurred after health care exposure, which makes all hospitals, big and small, important areas of focus to reduce transmission.”
“It’s important to consider that a patient’s skin may be colonized with drug-resistant bacteria, but because they do not display symptoms, providers may not test them or use extensive contact precautions during care,” Thaden said in the news release. “We may be close to a point where it becomes worth the cost and effort to actively screen patients for resistant E. coli.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about E. coli.
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