Controlling Superbug Outbreaks

Controlling Superbug Outbreaks

A steady increase in superbug infections in the U.S. has health officials concerned, especially after a disturbing spike in cases was recorded during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, partly due to the increased use of antibiotics.

Controlling Superbug Outbreaks

Superbug Infections Increase During and After COVID-19 Pandemic

Recent data shows several concerning trends:

  • An increase in superbug infections is occurring and may experience an enormous spike by 2050.

More than 750,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections annually, and that number is expected to reach 10 million by 2050.

In the United States alone, antibiotic-resistant microbes cause more than 2.8 million infections and over 35,000 deaths annually.

Now, overuse of antibiotics during the COVID-19 pandemic may be making the problem worse.

In the early months of the pandemic, when COVID-19 patients showed up with coughing, fever, and shortness of breath, and their chest X-rays revealed white spots—lung inflammation resembling bacterial pneumonia—many were prescribed antibiotics.

In the U.S., for instance, more than half of the nearly 5,000 patients hospitalized between February and July 2020 were prescribed at least one antibiotic within the first 48 hours of admission.

Superbugs were already on the rise. The pandemic likely made things worse.

  • The likelihood of a microbe mutating and becoming a dangerous superbug is increasing each year.

Research shows that the likelihood of a microbe becoming a dangerous superbug is increasing, according to the Rothamsted Group.

The United Kingdom-based scientists say laboratory studies are finding more and more evidence that one mutation could result in hypervirulent strains of bacteria, fungi, and water molds that cause disease to humans, as well as crops used for human consumption, such as vegetables, fruits, and grains.

The number of hypervirulent strains noted by the scientists has risen from 112 in 2015 to 475 at the time of the report (2019).

Superbug Threat Increasing

  • A new superbug, Candida Auris, is emerging and spreading quietly but rapidly through healthcare facilities across the country.

Candida Auris is a multidrug-resistant fungus identified by the CDC as an emerging pathogen with a rating of “Serious” on the CDC's Threat Scale.

Some C. Auris strains are treated with multiple antifungal therapies, however, there are C. Auris strains are resistant to all three available classes of antifungals. More than one in three patients expire within one month of diagnosis of invasive C. Auris infection.

With the Covid-19 Pandemic, nursing, laboratory, infection prevention, and Environmental services were significantly stressed while handling the influx of Covid-19 cases following the first July/August 2020 surge and on the cusp of the upswing for the subsequent surge in mid-October 2020.

Since Covid-19 vaccines were not available until mid-December 2020, Covid-19 staff illness affected the availability of nursing and support staff thus impacting the investigation and management of the C. Auris situation.

Novel Case of Candida Auris in the Veterans Health Administration and in the state of South Carolina


Controlling the Spread of Superbugs

Superbugs are, by definition, resistant to most, sometimes pretty much all, antibiotic treatments.

They are notoriously challenging to kill on surfaces, particularly with conventional cleaning and disinfection methods, and spread quickly and easily to other occupants, especially those in healthcare facilities with compromised immune systems and other infections.

Halting the spread requires a combination of tactics, including:

  • Strict adherence to hand hygiene protocols.
  • Patient isolation in rooms with dedicated equipment.
  • The use of correct personal protective equipment, including gowns and gloves, and;
  • Routine enhanced cleaning and infection prevention and control measures, including the use of robotic appliances.

According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Infection Control:

[...] placing infected patients in a private room with their own equipment—as well as instructing all staff who came in contact with the patients to wear gowns and gloves and follow strict hand hygiene protocols—helped stop the spread of the pathogen.

[...] staff cleaned and disinfected the patient areas using a bleach 1:10 solution, followed by ultraviolet (UVC) light disinfection.

Following these procedures prevented C. auris from spreading to more than two patients.

Study Pinpoints Protocols to Control Superbug Outbreak

Additionally, studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of following up terminal cleaning services with a robot capable of emitting UV-C lighting to decontaminate surfaces without the use of chemicals.

This has proven especially effective on nearly impossible-to-kill superbugs, such as C. Diff, whose spores can survive on common surfaces for months.

According to the Herald-Mail Media;

At Chambersburg Hospital, the Xenex LightStrike robots have been used since 2017 in the final step of the cleaning process after the environmental services staff has thoroughly cleaned a patient room.

The robots use pulsed xenon to create UV-C light, which is more intense than sunlight and can disinfect a patient's room in just five to 10 minutes without chemicals.

The UV-C light from the robots can’t penetrate through glass, plastic, clothing or the top layer of skin, yet the intense light emitted has germicidal properties and has been proven to kill germs that cause infections such as MRSA and C. difficile.

Cleaning robots could prevent spread of 'superbug fungus' in Chambersburg Hospital



Superbug infections will continue to increase and could quickly move from primarily impacting healthcare facilities to public outbreaks if proper prevention and control mechanisms are not adopted.

Presently, large, well-funded hospitals struggle to arrest the spread of superbugs in their facilities.

Smaller surgery centers and healthcare facilities would likely benefit from outsourcing to an experienced service provider with the knowledge and resources required to provide regular cleaning services, terminal cleaning, and high-tech infection prevention and control appliances.

Outsourcing is a proven method for onboarding highly in-demand cleaning and disinfection services and experience for a fraction of the price of maintaining a similar service in-house.

If you would like more information regarding the effectiveness of high-performance infection prevention and control measures, or if you would like to schedule a free, no-obligation on-site assessment of your facility's custodial needs, contact us today for a free quote!

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