Keeping Patients Safe From Emerging Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Following are thoughts by guest author, Lynne V. Karanfil, RN, MA, CIC, Corporate Director, Infection Prevention, MedStar Health-Corporate Quality & Safety, Faculty Associate|National Center for Human Factors Engineering in Healthcare

Aye maties! Give me your life!

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

As folks celebrated Talk Like a Pirate Day on 9/19/13, days earlier the CDC posted their own skull and cross-bones. The pirates here are resistant bacteria causing people to lose their lives at a rate of 23,000 a year in the US. How did we become captured by these pirate bacteria? A picture is truly worth a thousand words. We are getting to a point in time that has been predicted. And its scarier than any pirate!

As Wayne Campbell, MD chief of Infectious Diseases at MedStar Union Memorial so eloquently stated at a recent Board meeting:

The emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria marches on. The most recent iteration is a bacteria common to all humans, Klebsiella pneumoniae.  This bacteria may now carry genetic information that allows it to be resistant to the vast majority of antibiotics, and the few antibiotics that remain active are seriously toxic to human kidneys.  We are in a bind to safely treat this common bacteria that has emerged after years of antibiotic bombardment made it an impending threat.  No antibiotics are currently in the pipeline to help us,  and we will have cases in the future of this bacteria being completely untreatable.

If you ever took only a few days worth of an antibiotic or begged your doctor to give you an antibiotic for a disease that isn’t treated with antibiotics, like the flu, then you need to walk the plank!  I admit I am guilty. I wanted to get back to work earlier and asked for antibiotics when probably not needed.  I was fortunate not to develop C difficile.  C difficile causes unrelenting diarrhea and this bacteria is causing havoc in the US, especially in our hospitals. The other is carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), commonly known as resistant Klebsiella or E coli, as Dr. Campbell discussed.

Photo courtesy of the

Photo courtesy of the

Taking antibiotics and using proton pump inhibitors (drugs that reduce acid reflux) are some of the contributing factors that are making C difficile more common than Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and now considered an urgent threat to public health in the US.

We all need to do our part! Taking antibiotics only when appropriate, completing the prescribed dose and, if experiencing diarrhea after taking an antibiotic, alerting the prescribing doctor are three weapons we can use to beat back these potentially deadly bacteria. For more information on antibiotic resistant threats, click HERE and head to the CDC website.


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