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November 2004, Volume 34 Number 11 , p 24 - 25


  • STEVEN AVALOS-BOCK RN, CIC, and Valarie Campbell, MD



  • Where infection strikes

  • Understanding antibiotic sensitivities

  • How the MIC guides treatment

  • Stop the spread



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    THE MOST COMMON complication threatening hospitalized patients today, nosocomial infections affect approximately 2 million patients each year and kill 90,000. In acute care hospitals, up to 10% of patients acquire one or more of these infections. By understanding how the causative pathogen is identified and tested for antibiotic sensitivity, you can help ensure that your patient gets effective treatment.

    Where infection strikes

    More than 80% of nosocomial infections fall into one of the following four categories:

    * urinary tract infection (usually catheter-related)

    * surgical-site infection

    * bloodstream infection (usually associated with an intravascular device)

    * pneumonia (usually ventilator-related).

    Although almost any virus or bacterium can cause problems, nine bacteria account for over 70% of all nosocomial infections in adults (see Identifying Common Culprits in Adults ).

    Understanding antibiotic sensitivities

    If the health care provider suspects a bacterial nosocomial infection, you'll need to collect specimens for culture and sensitivity testing. He'll then base his choice of antibiotic on the antibiotic sensitivity report, which lists bacteria growth inhibition caused by various antibiotics tested by the lab.

    The list of antibiotics a lab uses for testing is patterned after national guidelines because different groups of bacteria have properties that make testing with some antibiotics futile. The antibiotic list may also be influenced by local bacterial resistance patterns and the hospital's formulary.

    Antibiotic sensitivity testing can be done ...

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