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Johns Hopkins Begins Aggressive Screening for 'superbugs' in Children

Safety study triggered decision to go beyond standard monitoring and testing schedules//
Infection control and critical care experts at The Johns Hopkins Hospital have ordered testing for the two most common hospital superbugs for every child admitted to its pediatric intensive care unit.

The more stringent admission screening methods for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) go well beyond standard hospital practices, where tests are only ordered after symptoms or early signs of infection appear.

The new hospital practice was introduced March 1 after a study conducted at Hopkins last year showed that more frequent screening detected many more carriers of the germs before their presence led to infection or the germs spread to others.

Admission screening is already standard at Hopkins for adults admitted to intensive care units.

Health experts fear spread of these particular bacteria because they have developed resistance to the antibiotic drugs most commonly used to combat them. Though infections caused by these bacteria are rarely fatal, carriers of either bug are at greater risk for more dangerous infections.

Results from the study, to be presented April 16 at the annual meeting of the Society of Health Care Epidemiology of America (SHEA) in Baltimore, are believed among the first to make a case for better screening in efforts to slow spread of the germs in hospitalized children.

The study compared the effectiveness of weekly screening to current practices for ordering tests and found the weekly model to be many times more effective than standard risk monitoring, in which the highly contagious bacteria are looked for after patients develop skin rash, fever or pain.

Weekly swab testing and bacterial growth cultures were done on nearly 330 patients in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit for four months. Re
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