Tag Archives: CRE

Increase in Resistant Bacteria and Fungus Threatens Public Health

By ThinkReliability Staff

On September 16, 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013”This report detailed the impacts, causes and recommended solutions related to antibiotic resistance within the US (although the concerns are similar worldwide).

The report takes the form of an incident investigation.  Specifically, the report addresses the impacts to the goals of the CDC, the cause-and-effect relationships resulting in these impacts, and what is recommended to reduce the risk of these impacts continuing. The information presented in their report can be captured in a Cause Map, or visual root cause analysis, which allows a demonstration of the interaction of the various causes presented in the report.

The report begins with the goals being impacted by the problem of antibiotic resistance.  Specifically, the CDC conservatively estimates that more than 2 million people are sickened in the US every year by antibiotic-resistant infections.  More than 23,000 are estimated to die as a result.  The risk is not just for the general public, but healthcare providers as well, who are implicated in the report as having resistant strains on their hands, which causes a health risk for them as well as patients.  The report identifies not only person-to-person spreading of infection, but also spreading from environmental causes, such as food.  The presence of these strains impacts the environmental goal as well.

The cost of these infections is staggering.  It is estimated that up to $20 billion per year is spent on direct excess healthcare costs as a result of these infections in the US alone.  The productivity cost (loss of productivity across industries due to employees being out sick) is estimated to be as high as $35 billion per year.  (While the causes discussed in the report are of concern globally, the impacts to the population are specific to the US.)

Increased illness from resistant infections results from exposure to resistant infections, decreased protection from infection, and a shortage of drugs available to treat these infections.  Exposure to antibiotic-resistant infections results from either person-to-person or environmental spread.  Spread can pass from anybody who has antibiotic resistant bacteria or fungus, but a primary source is healthcare providers, who can easily pass the infection with improper hand washing (or none at all).  Environmental causes include surfaces (again, healthcare providers are a frequent source here) but also food.  Food animals are given antibiotics to control disease, but also sometimes are given antibiotics without a diagnosis to prevent infection or promote growth.  These antibiotics kill off non-resistant bacteria but not resistant bacteria, which remains in the meat and feces.  If meat is improperly cooked, the bacteria can be passed on to humans.  But the issue is not just with improperly cooked meat.  Other foods can be contaminated with animal feces, which can also contain the resistant bacteria.

When a person is taking antibiotics, they have a decreased protection from infection.  This is because antibiotics kill all bacteria – including “good” bacteria that helps prevent infection.  While antibiotics are used to treat disease,  the CDC estimates that 50% of prescriptions are unnecessary or not optimally effective.  The use of antibiotics has been identified as the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance.

The increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (and fungi) means that more and more drugs are becoming ineffective in treating these infections, increasing the risk of death when infections occur.  Additionally, research and development into antibiotics is slowing, compounding the problem of effective drug availability.

As part of the report, the CDC provides wide-ranging recommendations to limit antibiotic-resistant infections.  The recommendations are for healthcare providers, communities and individuals.  They aim to first prevent the spread of infection by ensuring that antibiotics are prescribed and used properly, as well as by better tracking the spread of antibiotic resistant pathogens.  This includes stopping the use of antibiotics in feed animals for growth promotion.  Additionally, better cleanliness control for healthcare providers, food preparers and the general population will reduce the spread of disease.  Secondly, the CDC aims to provide better treatment for these infections by investing in research and development to provide new antibiotic treatment options.  It is also hoped that surveillance data can provide more effective diagnostic tools and use of the treatments currently available.

To view the Outline and Cause Map, please click “Download PDF” above.

Want to learn more?
Read the CDC report.
Read our previous blog on Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriacae (one of the “Urgent” threats identified in the CDC report).

Cases of Deadly ‘Superbugs’ on the Rise in US

By Kim Smiley

A new antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria is causing deaths and raising flags in US healthcare facilities. The bacteria is called Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, often shortened to CRE, and is named for its ability to resist carbapenem antibiotics, the last resort treatment for antibiotic resistant bacteria. The fatality rate for those infected may be as high as 50 percent. In 2012, 4 percent of hospitals reported cases of CRE, up from about 1 percent a decade ago. The situation at long-term care hospitals is significantly worse, with 18 percent reporting cases last year.

The issue of CRE can be analyzed by building a Cause Map, a visual method for performing a root cause analysis. The first step is to create an Outline that documents all the background information for an issue. How the problem impacts the overall organization goals is also listed on the bottom of the Outline. In this example, the safety goal is obviously impacted since there have been patient deaths. After the Outline is completed, the second step is to build the Cause Map. The Cause Map is built by asking “why” questions to determine what causes contributed to the issue and then arranging the causes visually to show cause-and-effect relationships. Why have there been patient deaths?  This has occurred because they were infected with CRE and CRE infections are dangerous.

People are being exposed to CRE primarily in healthcare settings. CRE is being passed between patients within the same facility and between healthcare facilities as infected patients are transferred to different healthcare settings. Exposure is occurring between patients because infected patients may not be identified or adequately isolated. Many healthcare facilities do not have the capability to test for CRE and it’s also difficult to identify who should be tested since some patients who carry the bacteria are not symptomatic. CRE also tends to infect individuals who have other health issues and weakened immune systems. Treatment of the other issues may involve invasive medical devices, such as catheters, that can provide a pathway for infection into the body.

CRE infections are dangerous because they have a high rate of fatality, up to 50 percent according to the CDC, and they are difficult to treat. CRE are resistant to virtually all antibiotics. This strain of bacteria is also particularly worrying because they can transfer their resistance to other bacteria within their family, compounding the problem. Antibiotic resistant bacteria have developed over the years because of the wide use of antibiotics. Each time antibiotics are used, bacteria have a chance to evolve and they have over the years.

The final step in the Cause Mapping process is to find solutions that would reduce the risk of the problem in the future. In this example, there isn’t an easy solution. There are no promising new antibiotics in development at this time that would likely be able to treat CRE infections so the best hope is to prevent the bacteria from spreading. The CDC has recommended steps such as identifying and isolating infected patients.

This example also show important it is to track the effectiveness of solutions after they are implemented because there can be unintended consequences that show up later on. Antibiotics have saved thousands of lives, but they are becoming less effective as bacteria develop resistance to them. New solutions will be needed to prevent or fight these types of infections in the future. Cause Mapping is a useful tool to document evolving issues because they can easily be adjusted and added to as new information is available.

To view a high level Cause Map, click on “Download PDF” above.