New findings are giving credence to the idea that superbugs, which resist the most powerful antibiotics, thrive just where the frailest people dwell: nursing homes.
A report published last month in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology found that more than a quarter of residents in 26 Orange County, California, nursing homes carried a bacterium known as MRSA, a rate that surprised researchers. Another study in April found that retirement-home residents in one area of Japan had three times more of another type of resistant bug than healthy locals.
The latest research adds to a growing body of evidence pointing to elderly residences as one of the weak links in the world’s escalating battle against the overuse of antibiotics and the rise of superbugs. The nature of those homes, with their mix of patients moving in and out of hospitals and living for extended periods in close proximity makes them a difficult environment to track and destroy germs.
“Antibiotic use is not as well-controlled as in the major teaching hospitals, and the cleaning of the environment wouldn’t be as stringent,” said Rhonda Stuart, head of infection control at Monash Health, the largest public health agency in Australia’s Victoria state. Those conditions “create an ideal environment for organisms like this to spread.”