Gut Check: Hospital Infections May Come From Patients Themselves

Executive Editor
iStock

You may have noticed hospitals urging everyone who comes into contact with them to wash their hands repeatedly to prevent hospital-acquired bloodstream infections, a growing concern. But a team of researchers says there is a more powerful smoking gun: your own gut.

Researchers from Stanford University’s School of Medicine used new bioinformatics software to precisely identify a likely source of these infections, which affect most patients who spend more than a few days in the hospital and afflict upward of 40 percent of immunocompromised patients. They found most hospital-acquired infections originate from patients’ own bodies, often from their large intestines, home to hundreds of different bacterial strains.

Knowing the source of infections will help doctors effectively treat them and prevent them from coming back. The new computational tool will help quickly determine whether pathogens came from a break in the skin, leaked through the intestinal wall into the blood, or resided on the surface of an inserted catheter or hospital wall.

Source: Nature Medicine