According to a recent research study, multidrug-resistant bacteria, such as E. coli, can be found in more than one-quarter of people living in nursing homes.
There have been a number of prior studies, eight in total, that have shown various results ranging from 11% of residents to an alarming 59%, with 27% as the average.
Study author Sainfer Aliyu, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City, expressed concern over the number. But she also notes that just because an individual has the bacteria, does not mean they are sick themselves.
“Nursing home residents are at higher risk to become colonized with these bacteria. Someone who is colonized has the bacteria on them, but may not know it. They may not show any symptoms. But they can spread the germ to others, and they have the potential to become sick themselves.”
The major concern over this growing bacterial colonization was the threat of what are called “superbugs,” which are immune to most conventional ways of treatment. Health officials are very concerned about infections resistant to carbapenems, which is a powerful antibiotic used as a last resort.
Often times, people in nursing homes have health conditions that can weaken their immune systems. This leads to prolonged antibiotic use, and that can lead to the development of infections that are resistant to antibiotics.
As the number of people in nursing homes grows, especially as the older generations begin to retire, that raises concerns over the spread of these “superbugs.” Currently there are one million Americans living in some type of senior living community, and that number is expected to double by the year 2030.
The study lead by Sainfer Aliyu looked specifically for bacteria known as multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria (MDR-GNB). A common bacteria infection in nursing homes, according to the study authors.
The researchers looked through the medical literature for studies on MDR-GNB and nursing home residents. Eight studies done between 2005 and 2016 were included in the analysis.
According to Aliyu, the study shows the need to “further educate staff on infection prevention,” as well as come up with “policies for infection prevention that are more nursing-home specific.”
The study was praised by several individuals involved in the study of infectious diseases, including Linda Greene, the president-elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc., in Rochester, N.Y.
“This was a well-done study that quantifies the degree of colonization in long-term care facilities,” she said.
Greene agreed that hospitals and long-term care facilities must to work together to combat these “superbugs.” Ultimately, communication between facilities needs to improve, especially when someone is transferred while taking antibiotics, to ensure that they finish their full course of antibiotics.