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Alcohol-Resistant Bacteria: A Rising Threat in Infections

Chris Murray
Posted on: May 10, 2019 by Chris Murray

Infection control practices are used by healthcare facilities to protect patients and staff. Most facilities have rigorous systems in place to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases, including personal protective equipment requirements, handwashing protocols, and hand sanitizing stations located in patient rooms and common areas. For many healthcare providers, a quick spray of alcohol-based hand sanitizing solution between patient encounters is deemed sufficient to kill germs. Unfortunately, the overuse of these hand sanitizers has led to the development of alcohol-resistant bacteria. Facilities that provide care for at-risk patients, such as long-term care homes and nursing homes, must implement risk management strategies to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Risk management for these facilities includes nursing home insurance as well as staff training and infection control practices.

An Emerging Healthcare Threat: Alcohol-Resistant Bacteria

For years, healthcare providers have been aware of bacteria that are resistant to many forms of antibiotics. Over-prescription of antibiotic medications are partially responsible for the rise in these pathogens, which pose significant health threats to caregivers and patients alike. To combat these bacteria, many facilities have implemented stringent cleaning and hand sanitizing protocols, which often use alcohol-based disinfectants. While alcohol-based sanitizers have led to a substantial drop in hospital-based infections, an unintended side effect is the formation of bacteria tolerant to isopropyl or ethyl alcohol, the two most common chemicals in sanitizing solutions.

In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia and published in Science Translational Medicine, it was shown that a particular form of bacteria has become tolerant to alcohol-based sanitizers. This bacterium, Enterococcus faecium, is now the leading cause of infections acquired by patients in healthcare facility settings. E. faecium is already resistant to most forms of antibiotics and is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “superbug”. The University of Melbourne study investigated the spread of infectious pathogens. Over a 20-year period, researchers collected bacterial samples from hospitals; samples collected in the final years of the study period showed a significant increase in alcohol tolerance. While further research is needed, alcohol-resistant bacteria now pose a potentially dangerous threat in nursing facilities around the world.

Risk Management for Nursing Homes

Most nursing home facilities specialize in providing care to the elderly, who are especially susceptible to infectious diseases. Frequent transfers between nursing homes and hospitals or other care facilities have partially led to the spread of pathogens in these facilities, and as such represent significant risks for the health and wellbeing of elderly patients.

Risk management begins with nursing home insurance. This specialized form of insurance is designed to protect facilities, their staff members, and their patients from liability risks. Nursing home insurance is of vital importance to care facilities. Additional steps can protect facilities and the people who rely on them for care. These steps include adopting antibiotic best practices, which have been developed by medical researchers to mitigate the overuse of these medications in controlling infections. Healthcare facilities must continue rigorous cleaning and hand-sanitizing procedures to help control the spread of dangerous diseases. While many bacteria have become resistant to common sanitizing solutions, cleaning and handwashing protocols remain as the most effective means of preventing the spread of pathogens. Finally, ongoing training in infection control practices for caregivers and support staff is paramount; with regular training, caregivers can receive the latest information and techniques for protecting the patients who rely on compassionate and safe care in nursing home facilities.

About Caitlin Morgan

Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.

Posted in: blog Nursing Home