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Health Updates 25 June 2012

  • Hotel room germs abound on TV remotes, light switches“Television remotes and bedside lamp switches are right up there with toilets and bathroom sinks in having the highest levels of bacterial contamination in US hotel rooms, a new study shows.  It also found high levels of bacterial contamination on sponges, mops and other items on housekeepers’ carts.  This is a particular cause for concern because it could lead to cross-contamination of rooms, according to the University of Houston researchers.  Their analysis of samples collected from 19 surfaces in three hotel rooms in three states — Texas, Indiana and South Carolina — and found the lowest levels of contamination on bed headboards, curtain rods and bathroom door handles.  The researchers could not say whether or not the bacteria detected in the hotel rooms can cause disease, but said that the contamination levels are a reliable indicator of overall cleanliness.  Unclean rooms post a potential risk to guests, especially those with weakened immune systems….’Hoteliers have an obligation to provide their guests with a safe and secure environment.  Currently, housekeeping practices vary across brands and properties with little or no standardization industry wide.  The current validation method for hotel cleanliness is a visual assessment, which has been shown to be ineffective in measuring levels of sanitation,’ Katie Kirsch, an undergraduate student at the University of Houston, said in a society news release.  She said the study findings could help hotels develop more effective and efficient ways to clean rooms.” (MedlinePlus)
  • Bird flu grows scarier: “Only a few mutations stand between current strains of H5N1 avian influenza and a virus that could easily pass between humans, potentially killing hundreds of people, researchers said.  Published last week in Science, the research by Ron Fouchier, PhD, of Erasmus Medical center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues — as well as that of similar studies by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin Madison, and others — had been temporarily suppressed while the authors, journal editors and a government advisory board wrangled over whether the papers would tell terrorists how to craft a highly lethal bioweapon.  Kawaoka’s group published their results in Nature last month.  Fouchier and colleagues determined that five mutations in a H5N1 bird flu isolate made it highly  transmissible in mammals via airborne droplets.  Another group of researchers, also writing in Science last week, said they had found H5N1 strains in poultry that already carried two of the mutations identified by Fouchier’s team, meaning that only three more were needed to create a potential worldwide catastrophe.  Current H5N1 bird flu strains pass  easily among birds, but the efficiency of infection in mammals is very low.  Among the several hundred humans who have become infected, there have been no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission.” (John Gever, MedPage Today)
  • Rare drug-resistant bacteria spotted in US hospital: “A rare type of deadly bacteria was found in two patients in a Rhoda Island hospital in 2011, but swift treatment and infection control measures stopped any further spread, a new government report shows.  The bacterium – called New Deli metall0-beta-lactamase (NDM)-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae – is highly resistant to antibiotics and easily spread.  It is rare in the United States, but more common in areas including India, Pakistan, Cambodia and other Asian countries.  ‘These people had the bacteria in their body, but fortunately it was not causing an infection anywhere,’ said lead researchers Dr. Leonard Mermel, medical director of the department of epidemiology and infection control at  Rhode Island Hospital, in Providence.  The bacteria were isolated in one patient’s urine sample and in another patient’s fecal sample, but nowhere else in their body.  Infections with this strain of bacteria, however, can be deadly and there are few treatment options, Mermel said.  Where the bacteria is endemic, its growth is spurred on by several conditions….[too much] ease of getting antibiotics coupled with poor sanitation promotes bacteria growth and creates a ‘perfect storm’ for the development of resistant strains of bacteria…”. (HealthDay)
  • Roche fails to report adverse drug events: “Some 80,000 reports of possible adverse drug effects, collected by Roche’s patient support programs in the US over the past 14 years, were never reported to regulators, the company acknowledged.  The reports were discovered by the European Medicines Agency during a routine inspection.  What should have happened, but didn’t, according to Roche officials, was for the patient support programs to pass the event reports over to the company’s drug safety section.  The latter never knew about the reports and hence did not investigate them or send them to regulators as required.  The reports included more than 15,000 patient deaths.  The EMA said it had told the FDA of its findings.  Roche, meanwhile, promised to fix its internal communication problems.” (MedPage Today, Clinical Notes)
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