From the December 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By Thom Wellington
The end of the year is an excellent time to reflect upon accomplishments and set goals for the coming year.
Reviewing the concerning health care-associated infection (HAl) rates, continuing emergence of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) and innovative approaches to medicine provides an optimistic look into the near future. Innovation can be exciting for health care staff when it produces beneficial outcomes for the facility, and more importantly, the patients.
HAIs continue to have devastating effects on families as well as hospitals and long-term care facilities. With reported death rates from HAls hovering near 75,000, there is growing evidence that HAl deaths are misreported. Although causes of HAIs don’t change rapidly over time, the ways health care facilities fight them can. Here are five trends and developments in infection control that look promising for fighting the deadly HAI epidemic:
• Phage therapy: fighting infections with viruses
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As concerns grow about antibiotic resistance, phage therapy reemerges. Phage therapy is the practice of treating infections with viruses called phages that attack bacterial cells, but leave human cells untouched. Phages were discovered to be antibacterial agents and were commonly used in Europe and the U.S. during the 1920s and ‘30s for treating bacterial infections. With the emergence of antibiotics, the use of phage therapy mostly disappeared in America. However, some countries in Europe continue to use this method of fighting MRSA and other infections.
Today, scientists are genetically engineering bacteriophages with specific parameters that provide hope in fighting MDROs. One of the main benefits of phage therapy is that phages are fairly narrow in their spectrum of activity. With phage treatment, it is possible to kill bacterial pathogens while avoiding the harming of normal flora bacteria. Because of this narrow spectrum of activity, superinfections are less likely and phages may be employed prophylactically with little fear of adversely affecting patients.
• Implantable antimicrobials
Implanting medical devices, including pacemakers, orthopedic prostheses and more, with a special biofilm coated with antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties is gaining traction among many medical researchers. In a recent study, cardiac electronic devices enveloped inside an antimicrobial skin reduced the risk of surgical site infections (SSIs) by an eye-opening 80 percent.