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GAO Finds Gaps in Antibiotic Resistance Surveillance by CDC

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, July 11, 2011

Though healthcare providers are increasingly fearful of emerging strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria infections in patients, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has serious gaps in how it monitors those infections, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

"CDC does not monitor the use of antibiotics in inpatient settings – where antibiotic use is often intensive and prolonged and thus, the risk of antibiotic resistance is greater – although the agency believes such information would help it target and evaluate its own prevention efforts to reduce the occurrence of resistance," the report concluded.

In part, the GAO criticized the CDC's current use of sampling of healthcare facilities for resistant strains saying it "is not representative – and incomplete information about the entire scope of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) that are resistant to antibiotics – present data gaps that limit CDC's ability to produce accurate national estimates of antibiotic resistant HAIs in healthcare settings."

Although the CDC uses the National Healthcare Safety Network to monitor infections, "the facilities that participate are not a nationally representative sample."

As of the start of this year, all acute care hospitals that participate in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program are obligated to report into NHSN central-line associated bloodstream infections for certain procedures from their intensive care units.

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