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Superbugs and hospital infections, part 1: overuse of antibiotics

The problem of hospital-acquired infections is one of the recurring stories we are following in this blog.

As we noted in our February 28 post, one of the reasons that medical checklists were originally developed was to promote better hand-hygiene protocols that would cut down on the spread of bacteria-causing infections.

In this two-part post, we will take note of another aspect of the infection issue: the rise of so-called "superbugs."

Superbugs are bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. The federal Centers for Disease Control has become increasingly concerned about these bugs - and about the way many hospitals put patients at undue risk of harm from them.

To be sure, not all infections acquired in hospitals are the result of hospital negligence. But the CDC has called attention to the way in which less-than-optimal medical malpractices may unnecessarily expose patients to infections that do not respond to antibiotic drugs.

The CDC is also concerned about allergic reactions to drugs and potentially lethal intestinal infections.

One of the superbugs that the CDC is most concerned about is called "C. diff." The full name for this nasty bacteria is clostridium difficile.

C. diff is known to cause diarrhea. But it also can cause infections when antibiotics are prescribed for a patient.

When a patient has a diarrhea infection, it can be fatal.

The overall problem, according to the CDC, is that doctors too often overuse or misuse antibiotics. In part two of this post, we will discuss what steps the CDC proposes to address this problem.

Source: CNN Health, "CDC: Hospitals contributing to rise of superbugs," March 5, 2014

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