Active early warning system against hospital germs

Early warning system against hospital germs - mathematicians develop alarm system

Hospital germs are considered to be particularly resistant. Again and again there are severe infections caused by resistant germs. Experts estimate that around 15,000 people die from the infections each year. The use of antibiotics can no longer harm most resistant bacteria, because they have developed defense strategies in the form of enzymes that make them virtually “invulnerable”. They can also develop so-called multi-resistance to several antibiotics.

Hospitals are the ideal place for bacteria. The medication used then no longer works, and an infected person or animal can sometimes become seriously ill or even die from the bacterial infection. In places where there are many antibiotics in circulation, such as in hospitals or in factory farming, resistance develops particularly quickly and strongly. With each new drug that the researchers use to defend themselves, bacteria continue to develop and expand their defense mechanisms. One of the best known hospital germs is the so-called "MRSA". For a long time now, doctors have been demanding that research not only be carried out on new antibiotics, but that there are also ways to contain the pathogens.

In order for new pathogens to be tracked down effectively, monitoring by only one in five clinics may be sufficient. At least that is what mathematicians want to have found out with analytical calculation methods. The researchers refer to so-called “nosocomial infections”. These are infections that contract with patients during a stay or treatment in a hospital or care facility. The mathematicians published the results of their study in the specialist journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science”.

For physicians at the University of Groningen, even every patient who is transferred to another clinic poses a risk, regardless of whether he is ill or healthy. "Even if the patient is not ill, the pathogens can stick to his skin or clothing," explains Tjibbe Donker, who works at the university. In particular, patients who are often referred are mathematically the greatest risk factor for the spread of resistant ones Pathogens.

20 percent of all clinics are sufficient as an alarm system For their study, the researchers concentrated on the Netherlands and Great Britain. In theory, 20 percent of all clinics would be enough to set up such a warning system. In most cases, if controls were strictly carried out, only two to three hospitals would be affected by the new germ. "If, on the other hand, we chose hospitals at random, we would have to keep an eye on 40 percent of them," explains mathematician Donker. The Dutch Ministry of Health is considering testing such a warning system in a region. Klaus-Dieter Zastrow, member of the board of the German Society for Hospital Hygiene, also finds the idea of ​​such an early warning system interesting. However, he emphasizes that "the most important thing in the fight against new germs is not to let them arise in the first place". "Compliance with hygiene regulations is essential".

Blood poisoning, pneumonia and wound infections often occur as a result of hospital germ infections. The bacteria can be detected on doorknobs, coats and food trays. They often survive undetected for weeks. (fr)

Picture: Dr. Karl Herrmann /

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