More than a quarter of skilled nursing facility residents have multidrug-resistant bacteria — including E. coli — lurking within them, Columbia University researchers found.

A review of 12 previous studies published in May’s American Journal of Infection Control found resistant bacteria rates ranging from 11.2% to 59.1%. More than 2,700 residents were included in those studies, and factors such as advanced age, gender, comorbidities, increased interaction with healthcare workers and delayed initiation of antibiotics raised their colonization risk.

“This study underscores the importance of having strong infection prevention programs in all long-term care facilities,” explained Linda Greene, RN, MPS, CIC, FAPIC, the president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. 

E. coli accounted for the most cases. The average colonization rate was also significantly higher in U.S. studies (38%) compared to those from other countries (14%).

The research team encouraged providers to identify residents most at risk for multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria, and allow preventionists to tailor efforts specifically for those residents.