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Many hospital infections spread due to human contact

Researchers emphasize the importance of patients and visitors washing their hands

Photo (c) demaerre - Getty Images
Preventing infections among hospital patients has become a major issue as of late, and researchers have now discovered a key player in the spread of some infections: human contact.

A new study found that hospital patients are much more likely to contract certain infections that are resistant to antibiotics when they’ve been in contact with other people.

Passing on infections

To see how hospital patients were put at risk of infection after human contact, the researchers had both patients and hospital workers wear sensors that were able to monitor when the wearer came in contact with those outside the hospital.

Both patients and workers wore the sensors for eight weeks, during which the researchers were able to get a better understanding of how drug-resistant bacteria spread from person to person. After the eight-week period, the team evaluated whether the participants had developed two common hospital infections that are antibiotic-resistant: E.coli and Klebsiella pneumonia.

The researchers determined that human contact was responsible for 90 percent of participants’ cases of Klebsiella pneumonia, though the same explanation was not true for those who developed E.coli. Less than 60 percent of E.coli cases were due to human contact, which has prompted the researchers to highlight the need for more interventions for antibiotic-resistant infections.

Importance of washing hands

For those who did develop Klebsiella pneumonia because of human-to-human contact, the researchers were encouraged, as there is a simple way to help protect hospital patients against the infection: washing your hands. Increasing hand-washing, and improving hand hygiene in general, can help reduce patients’ risk of developing Klebsiella pneumonia while in the hospital.

The researchers hope that their findings inspire future similar studies and that fellow medical researchers can replicate their wearable sensor method to track the spread of other hospital-borne infections.

“By combining digital epidemiology and rapid microbiological diagnostic tools, we may be entering a new era to understand and control the risk of hospital-acquired infection with multi-drug resistant bacteria,” said researcher Audrey Duval.

Staying healthy and informed

Drug-resistant bacteria is something to be taken very seriously, and the subject has dominated headlines recently, especially as some bacteria have become resistant to alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Earlier this year, researchers found that hospital patients are contracting these drug-resistant infections through the things they touch in their rooms, and the people and things they come in contact with that visit them.

While having a private hospital room can help reduce the risk of contracting a serious infection, this isn’t a reality for many hospital patients. This makes their choice of hospital all the more important, as not all hospitals are created equal.

Doing research on a hospital’s Safety Grade is more important than ever, as a recent study found that patients who land in hospitals with failing grades are at greater risk of dying due to completely preventable or treatable conditions, making it all the more important for consumers to do their homework.

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