New advances in fighting hospital-acquired infections

Fighting hospital infections 03:36

(CBS News) The last thing you expect when you go to the hospital is to get an infection, but that's what happens to millions of people each year. Hospital-acquired infections are often deadly and diagnosing them can take days.

In fact, one in every 20 patients gets an infection related to their hospital care, which creates more than $25 billion in cost. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named the elimination of hospital-acquired infections one of its "Top Ten Winnable Battles."

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One of the major problems is that bacteria found in hospitals has been evolving for generations. These organisms are subjected to antibiotics and disinfectants constantly, so those that survive are considered superbugs.

"These hospital-acquired infections are typically driven by bacteria, and bacteria are living organisms," Accelerate Diagnostics CEO Lawrence Mehren said on "CBS This Morning: Saturday." "Like all living organisms, they try to survive and bacteria living in hospitals are living in a high threat environment."

Mehren says that you should not blame the institutions, that they are in fact very clean and that it is really about the biology of the bacteria.

Accelerate Diagnostics, a Tucson, Ariz., biotech firm, has come up with a way to more quickly diagnose these organisms for quicker treatment options. The firm developed a non-cultured testing for the rapid identification of drug-resistant organisms and hospital-acquired infections.

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There are also some ways that patients themselves can cut down on their risk of contracting a hospital-acquired infection. The CDC provides a list to prevent against these situations, which Mehren said is very accurate.

The health agency recommends that patients keep their hands clean, get smart about antibiotics, speak up to their doctors and nurses and know the signs and symptoms of a infection.

Lawrence Mehren's full interview, watch the video in the player above.