E. coli gene that can spread antibiotic resistance discovered in U.S. patient

A patient that was treated at an outpatient military treatment facility in Pennsylvania is the first in the United States to be diagnosed with colistin-resistant Escherichia coli, says the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

The discovery comes after scientists in China reported that the mcr-1 gene in bacteria confers colistin resistance in November. After that, scientists across the globe began searching for other bacteria containing the mcr-1 gene, and it has since been discovered in Europe and Canada, and now in the United States.

“These discoveries are of concern because colistin is used as a last-resort drug to treat patients with multidrug-resistant infections,” HHS says.   

HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense and the Pennsylvania Department of Health are working together to identify close contacts of the Pennsylvania patient to determine whether any of them may have been at risk for transmission of the same E. coli strain.

HHS says the recent discovery “underscores the urgent need for more research in this area.” The CDC’s Antibiotic Resistant lab network is providing infrastructure for seven to eight regional labs, labs in all states and seven major cities/territories that will begin operation in the fall. The labs will be able to detect new forms of antibiotic resistance — including mutations that allow bacteria to survive the effects of the last-resort drugs like colistin — and report these finding to the CDC in near real-time. 

ASHE urges members to participate in 2018 building code development

Two important health care facility codes from the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) — NFPA 99: Health Care Facilities Codes and NFPA 101: Life Safety Code — are halfway through their 2018 code development cycles.

Chad Beebe, AIA, SASHE, and deputy executive director for advocacy of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering is reminding stakeholders that there is still opportunity to help shape the final outcomes for these codes. The organization, which seeks to optimize health care facilities, has highlighted some proposed changes to both codes.

Program to train first responders, hazardous waste workers on infectious disease safety

A training program will help approximately 35,000 first responders and workers, whose jobs may expose them to infectious diseases, protect themselves while also minimizing the spread of disease to others. The three-year, $9 million program is being launched by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies.

“A few years ago, very few of us had heard of diseases like Ebola or Zika,” says Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., NIEHS director. “We need to ensure that we have a workforce ready to contain these and the next infectious disease threats. This new training program will help workers, who do so much to protect others, stay safe when working with patients or people in high risk situations.”

VA launches new mental health telehealth initiative

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) announced the establishment of five VA Mental Health Telehealth Clinical Resource Centers at the American Telemedicine Association’s conference last month.

The program will provide enhanced mental health access and services to veterans in remote locations. The centers will be located in Charleston, S.C.;, Salt Lake City; Pittsburgh; and a consortium of facilities in Boise, Idaho; Seattle; and Portland, Ore. The fifth facility, already operational in West Haven, Conn., is a specialty hub focused on the most severe and complex mental health issues, such as chronic depression and bipolar disorder. The others are expected to be available in the summer, with the priority given to VA medical facilities in urgent need of additional mental health providers.

Battery pack for patient monitors recalled due to potential fire risk

Medtronic Respiratory & Monitoring Solutions is recalling its battery pack that powers the monitor of the Capnostream 20 and Capnostream 20p when electrical power is not available.

The battery packs have a manufacturing defect that causes an increase in temperature within the battery that may cause a fire in the system monitor. Using affected products may cause serious adverse health consequences, including death.