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Years after Scare, Risk of Superbug Infections Remains High

By Phil Bowler, MPhil, Bsc, FIBMS, director, infection prevention and control, research and development, ConvaTec.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently celebrated a decline in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections[i], incidences of several other types of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) known as ‘superbugs’ continue to rise and precautions need to be taken in hospitals and home care settings. A June 2012 study found the global prevalence of extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing bacteria has increased[ii] and in March the CDC reported infections associated with C. difficile increased by 400% from 2000 to 2007.[iii]Also 7% of respiratory tract infections in intensive care units are caused by acinetobacterbaumannii, a superbug with high mortality rates that survives for weeks on dry surfaces.[iv]

Open wounds associated with surgery, trauma and disease are major ways that superbugs are spread. To reduce infection, it is important to keep wounds covered with a dressing that tightly conforms to the size and shape of the wound and includes an antiseptic agent to kill harmful bacteria.

A study published in August issue of International Would Journal has found that ConvaTec AQUACEL® Ag dressing tightly conforms to the wound surface and also kills the most challenging and deadly superbugs.[v] In the in vitro study, AQUACEL® Ag dressing showed positive test results in several models of high infection risk in health care settings, including a model of sustained antimicrobial activity over time, a model to assess conformability, a model to assess antimicrobial activity against superbugs and a biofilm model to assess antimicrobial activity when each of the superbugs expressed a biofilm phenotype. AQUACEL® Ag dressing was able to kill stains of acinetobacterbaumannii, community-associated MRSA, C. difficile and ESBL-producing bacteria. Results show this dressing can not only protect hospital patients but can also prevent the spread of superbugs into the wider community.[vi]

The study adds to growing evidence that wound dressings with antiseptic agents like AQUACEL® Ag are an excellent option for managing wounds to either prevent or combat the colonization of superbug bacteria. Hospital patients and patients who are elderly or very sick with open wounds are of greatest risk of acquiring a superbug infection and so the use of a wound dressing that can kill MDROs can help to protect these patients and the health care providers who are susceptible to carrying MDROs.  

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[i]Landrum ML, Neumann C, Cook C, et al. Epidemiology of Staphylococcus aureus Blood and Skin and Soft Tissue Infections in the US Military Health System, 2005-2010. JAMA. 2012;308(1):50-59. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.7139.

[ii] Park SH, Byun JH, et al.Molecular epidemiology of extended-spectrum beta- lactamase -producing Escherichia coli in the community and hospital in Korea: emergence of ST131 producing CTX-M-15.BMC Infect Dis. 2012 Jun 29;12 (1):149

[iii] Vital Signs: Preventing Clostridium difficile Infections. MMWR.March 2012; 61: 157-162.

[iv]Wachter, Kerri. AcinetobacterHits Hospital Patients.Internal Medicine News. January 15, 2006. Available at:[tt_news]=7398&cHash=da03e20e36

[v]Bowler P, Welsby S, Towers V, et al. Multidrug-resistant organisms, wounds and topical antimicrobial protection.Intern Wound Jour. 2012; 9(4):387-396.

[vi]Bowler P, Welsby S, Towers V, et al. Multidrug-resistant organisms, wounds and topical antimicrobial protection.Intern Wound Jour. 2012; 9(4):387-396.


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