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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Michigan Research Finds 1 in 4 Seniors Acquire Superbugs on Their Hands after a Stay in a Healthcare Facility

“Superbugs,” or multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs), are a subject of significant concern in the field of healthcare, especially to those most susceptible to infections. Seniors are not only part of this susceptible group but also generally spend the most time in the hospital compared to any other age group.

After admission to a hospital for surgery or some other procedure, seniors often spend significant time in a post-acute care (PAC) facility before transitioning back to their homes. These facilities often have group activities and opportunities for residents to be active and social, which increases their contact with other residents, healthcare workers, and the PAC environment and therefore also increases their potential contact with superbugs.

The University of Michigan research study examined a group of 357 seniors staying in various PAC facilities throughout southeast Michigan, testing for the presence of MDROs on their hands. Results showed that about one quarter (24.1 percent) tested positive for these superbugs. Furthermore, follow-up tests done on patients that had longer stays in the facilities showed that the rate of superbug presence climbed even higher to 34.2 percent.

Dr. Betsy Foxman who is the Hunein F. and Hilda Maassab Professor of Epidemiology at U-M School of Public Health, was a co-author on the study. Dr. Foxman is also director of the Center for Molecular and Clinical Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, and also director of the Interdisciplinary Training Program in Infectious Diseases.

What these results tell us is that there is a need to emphasize and promote frequent handwashing and hygiene practices in healthcare facilities like these, not only for healthcare workers and staff but for patients as well. Various tactics to drive home this point have been discussed, one of which is actually showing people petri dishes with lab-grown cultures of the bacteria that had been on their hands. More traditional methods such as posters, educational modules, and readily-available hand sanitizers can also serve as reminders to PAC residents to continually wash their hands.

For more information on the study, click here.