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Superbugs found on many hospital patients' hands and what they touch most often

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Christian Fernsby |
Superbugs
Medicine   Fourteen percent of 399 hospital patients tested in the study

For decades, hospitals have worked to get doctors, nurses and others to wash their hands and prevent the spread of germs.

But a new study suggests they may want to expand those efforts to their patients, too.

Fourteen percent of 399 hospital patients tested in the study had "superbug" antibiotic-resistant bacteria on their hands or nostrils very early in their hospital stay, the research finds. And nearly a third of tests for such bacteria on objects that patients commonly touch in their rooms, such as the nurse call button, came back positive.

Another six percent of the patients who didn't have multi-drug resistant organisms, or MDROs, on their hands at the start of their hospitalization tested positive for them on their hands later in their stay. One-fifth of the objects tested in their rooms had similar superbugs on them too.

The research team cautions that the presence of MDROs on patients or objects in their rooms does not necessarily mean that patients will get sick with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And they note that healthcare workers' hands are still the primary mode of microbe transmission to patients.

In addition to MRSA, short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the study looked for superbugs called VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococcus) and a group called RGNB, for resistant Gram-negative bacteria. Because of overuse of antibiotics, these bacteria have evolved the ability to withstand attempts to treat infections with drugs that once killed them.


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