Study: Community hospitals see rise in drug-resistant E. coli cases

E. coli under 6,83x magnification. | Courtesy of the CDC
The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America published a study this week that indicates highly antibiotic-resistant extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria infections are on the rise at community hospitals, where most Americans seek medical care.

The study evaluated medical records at 26 hospitals across the Southeastern U.S. and found that cases of ESBL E. coli nearly doubled between 2009 and 2014, increasing from 5.28 to 10.5 out of 100,000 patients. During the same time frame, researchers found that the number of hospitals reporting these cases increased from 17 to 20.

Extended-spectrum beta-lactamase creates the antibiotic-resistant nature of the disease. Researchers said U.S. hospitals don't actively screen for bacteria able to produce ESBL, so proper precautionary measures are not taken unless the patient is showing symptoms.

“These 'silently' colonized patients increase the risk of transmission to vulnerable patients via health care workers or environmental contamination, compromising safety and quality of care,” Dr. Joshua Thaden, lead author of the study and a fellow at the Division of Infectious Diseases at Duke University Medical Center, said.

Nearly 75 percent of ESBL E. coli infections occurred following exposure to a hospital or other health care setting. This suggests that hospitals and care facilities are focal points for transmission.

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