SNF study encourages avoiding antibiotics for 'superbugs'

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Treating drug-resistant bacteria with antibiotics may encourage other bacteria to develop, according to a new study. Researchers say this builds a case for providers to be extra judicious with their antibiotic prescribing.

The University of Michigan-led research found 40% of the more than 200 nursing home residents sampled in the study had more than one multidrug-resistant organism, or MDRO, on their bodies. The study also found residents with specific pairs of MDROs were more likely to develop a catheter-associated urinary tract infection, a finding that allowed researchers to create a “map” of interactions between the bugs and antibiotics.

“We observed a complex network of interactions, with acquisition of each of six different MDRO species being influenced by different sets of antibiotics, and primary MDRO colonization in turn increasing the risk of acquisition and infection by other MDROs," lead author Joyce Wang, Ph.D., said in the study's announcement.

Researchers say that map could one day help nursing staff choose to treat a resident with a certain antibiotic, knowing it can kill a certain MDRO and potentially impact others living on the resident as well. That will require further research, the team said, but until then the findings should encourage providers to seek alternatives to antibiotic treatments.

“We need to understand what clinical practices drive the spread of MDROs in healthcare facilities, and counterintuitively, it appears that a key factor is the use of certain antibiotics used against an individual organism that may impact other circulating organisms,” said researcher Evan Snitkin, Ph.D.

Results of the study appear online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.