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Most hospital infections come from bacteria living in the patient: study

 

New research carried out at the University of Washington School of Medicine points to the fact that in most cases, the infection-causing bacteria were actually present in the patient's body before surgery.

 

Filed under
Infection Control
 
May 8, 2024
 
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Most hospital infections come from bacteria living in the patient: study
 

New research carried out at the University of Washington School of Medicine counters the theory that infections contracted during hospital stays are acquired at the healthcare facility itself.

Instead it points to the fact that in most cases, the infection-causing bacteria were actually present in the patient's body before surgery.

Scientists conducting the research were keen to explore why surgical site infections, which occur in around one in 30 surgical procedures, have not significantly declined despite general adherence to infection-prevention measures such as environmental cleaning and sterile processing.

They examined 210 patients undergoing spinal surgery and analysed bacteria from their noses and stool samples. Skin swabs were also collected on the day of surgery from the region directly overlying the planned incision area. All patients were also monitored post-surgery.

It emerged that 86 per cent of the bacteria that were causing infections after spine surgery were genetically matched to bacteria already present in the patients before the procedure took place. And when an additional 59 surgical site infections in patients in the same environment were analysed, scientists discovered that none of the SSIs were caused by a common bacterial strain.

"This finding indicates that spine SSIs in our population were not caused by strains originating from shared reservoirs within the hospital environment at any measurable frequency," the study authors wrote.

Published in Science Translational Medicine, the study points to the need for new approaches concerning strategies to prevent surgical site infections.

"It could drive important shifts in infection prevention strategy and enable more individualised and patient-centered approaches," write the study authors.