hospital acquired infections

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Bernard Valencia’s room in the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., illustrates how hospitals across the country could fight a nationwide epidemic. As soon as you enter the room, you can see one of the main strategies: A hook hangs from a metal track that runs across the ceiling.

This isn’t some bizarre way of fighting hospital-acquired infections or preventing the staff from getting needle sticks. The contraption is a ceiling hoist designed to lift and move patients with a motor instead of muscle.

As NPR has reported in our investigative series Injured Nurses, nursing employees suffer more debilitating back and other injuries than almost any other occupation — and they get those injuries mainly from doing the everyday tasks of lifting and moving patients.

But the Loma Linda hospital is part of a nationwide health care system that is proving hospitals can dramatically reduce the rate of injuries caused by lifting — if administrators are willing to invest the time and money.

The name of the system might surprise you. It’s the VA — the Department of Veterans Affairs.

At VA Hospitals, Training And Technology Reduce Nurses’ Injuries

Photo credit: Annie Tritt for NPR

Natural clay may defeat hospital infections

Potent antimicrobial activity discovered in a natural clay deposit in British Columbia, Canada, may provide the key to tackling some of the deadliest hospital infections.

First employed by the indigenous Heiltsuk First Nation, Kisameet clay was previously used by Canadian doctors in the 1940s to treat internal and skin ailments including ulcerative colitis, arthritis and burns, before antibiotics rendered the use of clay obsolete.

However, the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant infections has a University of British Columbia research team reexamining the use of Kisameet clay. ‘We clearly need new antimicrobial agents,’ said microbiologist and senior researcher Julian Davies. ‘Very few novel agents have been developed in recent years, and we have increasingly multi-drug resistant strains appearing because of antimicrobial over- and misuse.’

Sixteen bacterial strains of some of the most common hospital-acquired infections were incubated into a diluted suspension of the clay for 24-26 hours, with the clay’s strong antibacterial activity eliminating all 16. Davies remarked that the exact mechanisms are currently unknown due to the clay’s complicated mixture. ‘It would be a dream to find isolates to make a new antibiotic,’ Davies added.

Graduate student Shekooh Behroozian stated, ‘When we started, we thought it was folk medicine. But it turned out to be much more than that.’