Monthly Archives: April 2016

How to avoid patient risk of infection

If the previous occupant of a hospital bed received antibiotics, the next patient who uses that bed may be at higher risk for a severe form of infectious diarrhea, according to a new study.

Clostridium difficile (C. diff) diarrhea causes 27,000 deaths each year in the U.S. Hospital patients taking antibiotics are particularly at risk for it, say the authors of the study. Antibiotics disturb the normal healthy bacteria of the gut so a C. diff infection can take hold.

The new study shows that “antibiotics given to one patient may alter the local microenvironment to influence a different patient’s risk” for C. diff infection, the researchers wrote in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Other studies have also demonstrated that antibiotics can have a ‘herd’ effect – in other words, that antibiotics can affect people who do not themselves receive the antibiotics,” said lead author Dr. Daniel Freedberg of Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

Freedberg and his colleagues studied more than 100,000 pairs of patients who sequentially occupied a given hospital bed in four institutions between 2010 and 2015, not including those who had recent C. diff infection or whose prior bed occupant was in the bed for less than 24 hours.

More than 500 patients, or less than 1 percent of the total group, developed a C. diff infection as the second bed occupant.

The infections were 22 percent more likely when then previous occupant had received antibiotics.

Other factors about the previous bed occupant were not associated with C. diff risk.

People can be carrying C. diff organisms without having any symptoms, Freedberg told Reuters Health by email. When these colonized patients receive antibiotics, C. diff may expand within their gut microbiome and start shedding more spores, which means more spores on the bed, the bedside table, the floor, and other areas, he said.

“The next patient who enters the room is thus more likely to be exposed to C. diff spores,” he said. “It’s not easy to sterilize the room/bed between patients because C. diff spores are extremely hardy. To be killed, they need to be soaked in a bleach-containing cleaning agent for an adequate amount of time.”

About half of patients in acute care facilities take antibiotics on any given day, said Kevin Brown of the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health, who was not part of the new study.

“That’s a huge portion of patients that could be involved in spreading the infection,” Brown told Reuters Health by email.

But the increased risk is modest, Freedberg added.

“There was a 22 percent relative increase in risk for C. diff with the prior patient’s antibiotics but there was a four-fold increase in risk related to the antibiotics received by the patient him- or herself,” he said.

Other patients, such as other antibiotic user patients within the ward, could have contributed increased risk as well, Brown said.

“Doctors (and patients) should avoid antibiotics in situations where they are not necessary,” Freedberg said. “Too often, antibiotics are prescribed without clear indications.”

“I think this evidence needs to be taken just as an association that needs further exploration,” said Jack A. Gilbert of Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois, who was not part of the new study. “While it would be tempting to use these results to change policy, there are so many uncertainties here that such a move would not be advisable.”

Google judges

An Oregon teenager has invented a bandage that can tell doctors when it needs to be changed, impressing Google judges and securing a $15,000 scholarship.

Anushka Naiknaware, 13, placed in the top eight in an international science contest run by Google. She won the Lego Education Builder Award, which included the scholarship, a free trip to Lego world headquarters in Denmark and a year of entrepreneurship mentoring from a Lego executive, reported the Oregonian/OregonLive.

Large wounds must be kept moist to promote healing, but changing bandages too often to check moisture levels can make things worse. To solve that problem, Naiknaware, a seventh-grader at Stoller Middle School in Portland, designed and tested a bandage that is embedded with tiny monitors. They can sense moisture levels and allow medical workers to determine whether the dressing has dried out enough that the bandage needs to be changed.

Naiknaware created the sensors by printing a fractal pattern using ink containing graphene nanoparticles. The particles can accurately detect when moisture levels have dropped.

Google judges named her one of 16 global finalists, all of whom traveled to the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, to present their project. Naiknaware was the youngest person to win one of the global prizes.

She told the Oregonian that being able to interact, debate and play with 19 other curious teen scientists from across the world was one of her favorite life experiences. Another, she said, was the moment she saw her bandage prototype work.

“My idea became a physical, tangible reality,” said Naiknaware.

She said she hopes to use her Lego mentor’s advice to figure out how to get U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for her bandages so a company can produce them at scale.

Cosmetic addictions in spotlight

Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck recently shared that he had an addiction to hair plugs, and it almost cost him his career.

In an exclusive with Sports Illustrated and in his upcoming memoir, Buck described the overwhelming fear he had of losing his hair. The possibility of balding so consumed him that in 1993, at age 24, he had his first hair-replacement treatment. He wrote in the book that, after the procedure, “I, Joseph Francis Buck, became a hair-plug addict.”

Hair-replacement treatment and other cosmetic or appearance-altering procedures may seem commonplace in modern entertainment, and experts have said the treatments indeed can become debilitating addictions. But how do these addictions begin, and what can be done to treat them?

It’s possible that a tremendous fear of hair loss and an addiction to hair plugs could be linked to both a self-esteem issue and external social influences, said sociologist Amnon Jacob Suissa, a professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal who has studied different forms of addiction, including cosmetic surgery. Suissa has not treated Buck.

This type of addiction is linked to an intimate self-perception, or what the person thinks when looking at himself or herself, Suissa said. But it can also be influenced by media, and for Buck, being in the public eye could have exacerbated his already skewed self-image.

Dreams and What They Means

The average person spends six years of her life dreaming. Whoa. A number of those are recurring dreams. You know, that one where you’re giving a presentation and you’re naked and Tommy Renato won’t stop staring at you? What’s that all about? Here are the supposed meanings behind nine common dreams.

YOU’RE NAKED

Might mean: Nakedness represents vulnerability, and dreams in which nudity is the main theme are most common during times of major life change, like when you start a new job or move in with a guy.

YOU’RE BEING CHASED

Might mean: Oh hey, avoider. Being chased in your dreams means that you’re probably not dealing with something you should definitely be dealing with. The avoidance causes stress, which translates to feeling like someone is hot on your trail.

YOU’RE FALLING

Might mean: This is probably one of two things: Either you’re feeling out of control or overwhelmed by something, or you’re hanging on too tightly to something that you should let go of or drop.

YOU’RE FLYING

Might mean: The opposite of falling, this signifies that you feel free and unburdened. Everything’s going your way, champ.

YOU’RE IN THE OCEAN

Might mean: Water represents emotions, and can be a positive or negative symbol in dreams. If the water is clear, you likely manage your emotions well. Murky water, on the other hand, could signify that you’re not so great at dealing with feelings.