CDC and HRET team up to combat hospital infections

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, on a given day, one in 25 hospital patients suffers from at least one health care-associated infection (HAI). In the attempt to prevent such infections, the CDC is teaming up with the Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET), an affiliate of the American Hospital Association (AHA), for a three-year initiative to strengthen infection control practices at hospitals. The initiative is focused on reducing central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) infections, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.


HAIs are infections that are acquired when an individual receives treatment for another condition in a health care facility. HAIs can be acquired at any health care facility, including acute care hospitals, and can be caused by any infectious agent.


Thousands of preventable deaths each year are attributable to CLABSIs. A central line is a central venous catheter, which is a tube that is placed in a large vein in the neck, chest, groin or arm, to allow for the administration of fluids, blood, or medications. A central line can also be used for performing quick medical tests. Central lines can remain in place for weeks or months and some patients receive treatments through such lines several times a day, especially in intensive care units.


The CDC states that urinary tract infections (UTIs), which involve infections of the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidney, are the most common type of health care-associated infection that is reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). It is estimated that 75 percent of health care-associated UTIs are associated with urinary catheters.

C. diff.

C. diff. is a bacterium that causes the colon to be inflamed and usually results in a fever and diarrhea. C. diff. is estimated to cause almost half a million infections in the U.S. in 2011, with 29,000 individuals dying of the infections within 30 days of diagnosis. The elderly are at most risks for contracting infections and the CDC states that overuse of antibiotics is the most important risk factor associated with such infections.


MRSA is bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics and can show up in the form of skin infections. In medical facilities, MRSA can cause life-threatening infections and pneumonia. Last year, the president signed an Executive Order to implement measures to control prevent and control illnesses caused by antibiotic-resistant infections. The Order directed the development of a five-year National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. The president also convened a White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship to promote the responsible use of antibiotics.


The CDC-AHA initiative will be conducted through a close partnership with state hospital associations, state health departments, and the CMS’ Quality Improvement Networks—Quality Improvement Organizations (QIN-QIOs), and will provide assistance to at least 300 selected hospitals.

HRET will also work closely with the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE), to develop resources to design and renovate hospitals in ways so as to reduce infection risks. The project will also include assistance from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the University of Michigan, Michigan Health & Hospital Association Keystone Center, Health Insight QIN, and the Society of Hospital Medicine.


As part of the initiative, HRET will be offering technical assistance to hospitals and will be developing concise reports to provide guidance on the design and layout of health care facilities in order to improve infection control. HRET will also accelerate current strategies for infection reductions by building on the resources of its project partners to work together to improve patient safety.

Dr. Carolyn Gould, CDC Team Lead for Hospital Infection Prevention, said in a released statement, “Combining the expertise of CDC and HRET, we can better coordinate and align healthcare-associated infection prevention efforts at both a national and local level, accelerating prevention and improving sustainability.” Gould stated, “This is a unique opportunity to make a difference in preventing infections and improving patient safety across the nation.”