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National Superbug Study provides much-needed baseline Add to ...

First view of antibiotic resistant organisms in multiple Canadian hospitals prompts critical dialogue on national infection control guidelines.

On any given day superbugs like MRSA and C. difficile affect 1 in 12 Canadian adult patients with most cases being healthcare-acquired, reveals a Sunnybrook-led study, the first national survey of prevalence rates of antibiotic resistant organisms in 176 Canadian acute care hospitals published this month in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

"Superbugs" or antibiotic resistant organisms such as MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), VRE (vancomycin-resistant Enterococci) and CDI (C. diff. or Clostridium difficile) result in a substantial burden of disease in hospitals, and costs to the healthcare system.

"This disconcerting finding signals the need for more investigation to manage a major public health concern," says Dr. Andrew Simor, lead author and chief of Microbiology, and Infectious Diseases at Sunnybrook.  

"The results of this study provides a much-needed baseline for national prevalence rates for MRSA, VRE and C. diff. in Canadian hospitals," says Dr. Simor, a senior scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute.  "It is our hope the data will both inform priority-setting on resources for the control of resistance and stewardship of antibiotics, and provide the basis for developing more rigorous national infection prevention and control guidelines."

Sunnybrook researchers reported a total of 2,895 patients who were colonized or infected with MRSA, VRE or CDI. The researchers also uniquely correlated prevalence rates with overall hospital characteristics and infection prevention and control policies to report findings:

  • significantly lower rates of MRSA and VRE were found in hospitals that routinely used private rooms to accommodate patients either colonized or infected with these organisms
  • periods of higher occupancy of beds in a hospital were associated with higher prevalence of CDI, but not for MRSA or VRE
  • enhanced environmental cleaning of rooms used for patients with VRE was associated with lower VRE rates.

Survey participants were from all ten Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territories, and represented 65 percent of eligible hospitals or 176 accredited Canadian acute care hospitals, each with at least 50 in-patient beds.

Each participating hospital was asked to select one weekday between November 8 and November 21, 2010. On that day, all adult patients were identified by hospital census. Patients colonized who simply had the organism, and patients infected or symptomatic with the organism were identified.

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department, in consultation with Sunnybrook. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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