Intensive care units may be breeding grounds for drug-resistant super bugs, report suggests

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As many as 71% of the world's intensive care patients are receiving antibiotic treatment, which could lead to an increase in drug-resistant super bugs, a new study suggests.

The incidence of ICU infections—particularly bloodborne infections—are on the rise, according to researchers from Erasme University Hospital in Belgium. The study surveyed nearly 14,000 patients in 1,300 ICUs in 75 countries around the world. Of those, 51% had some form of infection, most commonly Staphylococcus aureus, the researchers found. The large percentage of patients on antibiotics could turn ICUs into breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, analysts from Brown University commenting on the report suggest.

There are few alternatives to liberal use of antibiotics in ICUs, the analysts say. Barring some radical new vaccine or immunotherapeutic treatments, these trends are likely to continue, they say. Both the report and the analysis appear in the Dec. 2 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.