Arkansas Doctors Tackle Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Mar 7, 2013

Arkansas hospitals are coming up with new strategies to combat drug-resistant bacteria. These dangerous superbugs have caused major health problems in health care facilities across the United States.

Dr. Gary Wheeler is chief of infectious disease with the Arkansas Department of Health. He says sometimes germs mutate and become stronger due to people overusing antibiotics.

“The newest class of resistant bacteria are resistant to a group of antibiotics that have been used for over a decade called carbapenems,” said Wheeler. “This is an important alarm for us to double our efforts to control these germs and for the pharmaceutical industry to continue its efforts to develop new drugs for the next generation of resistant bacteria.”

Wheeler says Arkansas has an active collaborative process with the federal Medicaid and Medicare programs, the Department of Health, and with other groups to reduce the number of hospital-acquired infections. He says hospitals in the state are also being asked to report any incidents of resistant bacteria so further data can be collected.

According to Wheeler, these superbugs should be of great concern for patients who have severe chronic illnesses and require long hospitalizations.

“Once they go into the hospital, there is a recognized standard risk, because of their underlying disease, that they might be more susceptible to bacterial infections,” Wheeler said. “Whether these are urinary tract infections, pneumonia, or the like… they’re a reality and they get treated initially with antibiotics. But the more and more they’re treated, the more likely they are to catch these organisms.”

Wheeler says state, local, and federal partners are expected to attend a summit at the end of March and share information about how to limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

Officials with the Centers from Disease Control say 4 percent of hospitals and 18 percent of long-term care hospitals in the country reported cases of the deadly bacteria in 2012.