Study Finds Infections after Surgery Linked to Patient's Microbiome, Not Hospital Superbugs

Study Finds Infections after Surgery Linked to Patient’s Microbiome, Not Hospital Superbugs


Healthcare providers and patients have long believed that infections contracted in the hospital are caused by superbugs present in medical facilities. However, a recent study suggests that these infections are more likely to originate from harmless bacteria already present on the patient’s body before entering the hospital.

The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, compared bacteria in the microbiome of patients with bacteria causing various healthcare-associated infections. The research revealed that the bacteria residing on the body when a person is healthy are often responsible for infections when they fall ill, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, bloodstream infections, and surgical site infections.

The researchers, based at Harborview Medical Center at the University of Washington, focused on surgical site infections following spinal surgery. Despite meticulous preventive measures taken by hospitals, surgical site infections remain a concern, contributing significantly to healthcare costs and posing risks of readmission and mortality.

The study involved sampling bacteria from the noses, skins, and stools of over 200 patients before surgery and monitoring them for 90 days post-surgery. Results showed that a high percentage of bacteria causing infections after spine surgery were genetically similar to those present on the patient’s body before the procedure. Moreover, a considerable number of infections were resistant to preventive antibiotics administered during surgery.

The findings highlight the need for personalized approaches to infection prevention based on the patient’s microbiome. Current protocols often follow a one-size-fits-all model, but tailoring preventive measures based on individual microbiomes could enhance effectiveness and reduce infection rates.

While traditional infection prevention strategies focus on ensuring sterility in the hospital environment, the study underscores the importance of considering the patient’s microbiome in infection control. By identifying and addressing potential sources of infection from the patient’s microbiome before surgery, healthcare providers can enhance the quality of care and outcomes for patients undergoing surgical procedures.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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