Attack of the Pneumoniae

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Doctors are scratching their heads over how to handle an increasing amount of drug resistant diseases. New Yorker staff writer and Harvard Medical School professor Jerome Groopman discusses the myth and reality of the "superbug."


Jerome Groopman

Comments [21]

GG from Dover, NJ

Thanks again Ciro M. DeSclafani, #20. There is a serious nursing shortage, which is getting much worse, soon only 1.5 million U.S. nurses instead of the needed 2.5 million. I doubt jobs will be eliminated at hospitals, where the main resistance is manifest.
Based on our experience one has to be crazy to try to find solutions in the face of so much resistance to anything new. Maybe we can talk. Find contact details at

Aug. 07 2008 04:59 PM
Ciro M. DiSclafani from Hackensack, NJ

GG wants to know "What hidden agenda"?
There may be two:
-The Infection Control Industry. How many jobs might be eliminated by implementing simple, effective solutions to the nosocomial Superbug problem?
-Federal funding of research which may sustain jobs of researchers who are trying to find solutions.
According to my sources, the government money dries up in December, so the simple solutions may triumph afterall.

Aug. 07 2008 02:45 PM
PG from greenwich, CT

A very interesting article should be appearing
in the upcoming on line September issue of Infection Control Today, the leading trade magazine focused on hospital acquired infections. It will outline a major cause of
the infections and suggest a simple protocol
that will greatly lower infection rates.

Aug. 06 2008 04:49 PM
GG from Dover, NJ

Ciro DiScalfani # 17 asks a terrific question Bottom line answer: a great, highly practical solution to preventing transfer of pathogens from patient to patient has been invented and demonstrated by independent testing. If the healthcare worker hands that touch the patient are always sterile, infections are virtually not transmitted. We have not found an industry crusader who is even willing to listen to the story. It is incredibly frustrating. I have to conclude there it not absence of chutzpah but a hidden agenda. But what?

Aug. 06 2008 01:50 PM
Ciro M. DiSclafani from Hackensack, NJ

As a chemist, with 35+ years experience, I have never experienced the types of "Ostrich-head-burying" behavior I see in the medical care industry.
This issue is so steeped in passing the responsibility and accountability onto uninformed, untrained, clueless regulators, litigators and insurance wonks. It seems no one in this industry has any scientific curiosity and the chutzpah to even try something new.
All the talk surrounds hand cleaning and drugs without looking at the dangerous effects of the cleaning and sanitizing protocols with ineffectual mostly toxic chemicals that exacerbate the nosocomial problems.
Aren't there any other "crusaders" out there who are willing to look at the new technology that will clearly, and quickly, go a long way mitigate this whole Superbug issue?

Aug. 06 2008 01:09 PM
Rich from Staten Island

I wish WNYC would've allowed more time for this topic this morning.

Aug. 06 2008 12:54 PM
GG from Dover, NJ

Practical, virtually instant, convenient, non irritating means to sanitize hands has been demonstrated but the hospitals are uniformly not interested in having such technology or even hearing about it. Without doubt, primary blame for these infections falls on the hospital administrators who are not dealing with infection transmission by implementing effective technology and prefer to blame the healthcare workers for being lax on (useless) bare hand sanitation between patient visits.

(continued) Medical insurance companies will soon stop paying many claims for treating hospital acquired infections. This currently amounts to $5.5 billion annually; much greater than implementing the proper infection solution. More states will require reporting of infection rates. This will get the attention of the hospital administrators and the new technology will be implemented. It is possible to predict that in five years the problem will be greatly mitigated.

Aug. 06 2008 12:28 PM
GG from Dover, NJ

Dr. Groopman surprisingly ignores the total inability and unwillingness of hospitals to prevent spread of pathogens, patient to patient, by virtue of the always contaminated hands and clothing of healthcare workers, which is an important source of hospital acquired infections. Antibiotic resistance exacerbates the seriousness of a resulting infection but the essential goal must be to prevent spread of infection, of all types, within the hospital.

The current approach, hand washing or alcohol rub application between patients, has been proven by clinical trials to be totally useless. All countries have the same problem. Since all surfaces are unavoidably contaminated soon after cleaning, and hands are necessarily and unavoidably contaminated by contact, it is essential to sanitize the hand just prior to touching the patient each and every time the patient is about to be touched or treated. Wearing exam gloves has not benefit.

Aug. 06 2008 12:28 PM
Rich from Staten Island

Another book worth reading is "Living Scared" by Linda Allone about her experiences with the healthcare industry.

Aug. 06 2008 12:24 PM
Cliff from Manhattan

Yale’s story about his late son is not only tragic it reveals a criminal activity. The hospital seeking to avoid reporting to the Board of Health by altering his son’s death certificate is committing fraud: a fraud that endangers the health of all of all its patients and calls into question the integrity of all that hospitals medical records. To me that seems like grounds for immediately pulling the hospital’s certification. Can it be that no one at the hospital questions its motive here: that it is more concerned with its reputation than with the care of its patients? I’m rather astonished that there is not more outrage at this sort of activity.

I wonder (rather cynically) if the poorer hygiene of hospitals isn’t related to the fact that the cost of cleaning is an overhead expense not readily chargeable to a specific patient. Our dysfunctional healthcare system continually forces hospitals to reduce operating costs. Were someone to come up with a medical charge code for providing hygiene, I bet the problem would disappear overnight, infection rates would plummet and that our health insurance premiums would skyrocket even more.

Aug. 06 2008 12:16 PM
Sainted_Mother from New York, NY

I highly, highly recommend Michael Shnayerson's book ... THE KILLERS WITHIN ... about this topic. He'd be a good interview subject also ...

Aug. 06 2008 12:06 PM
Sainted_Mother from New York, NY

Death Certif doctoring is nothing new. This is related to the father’s MRSA-caused daughter’s death.

When da died in 2005, as heart-attack complication of broken neck that was mis-diagnosed as arthritis (after a fall down the stairs, Da _was_ 87), I had the experience of calling the hospital (in Pittsburgh, PA) within minutes after his actual death ... AND talked to doc who pronounced him and who (I believe) gave me whole story ... When later, at funeral home, I got the death certif, my da's cause of death was listed as "myocardial infarc" (heart attack) ... WORSE, the signing doc was dad's regular doc, whom _I_KNEW_ had been nowhere NEAR the hospital at that time.

I said, this isn't right, and then ...

The coroner's office got involved, and it was a big to-do, like they'd have to exhume my da's body ... but ... they checked all the records, re-issued the death certif, this time ... it still said M.. I.., but now the secondary cause was "broken neck due to fall" ... I had just that week read a report about how many elderly deaths were due to falls, and I wanted my da to at least contribute to that research, and now he has.

I believe Death Certifs should reflect the ACTUAL cause of death, even if that's hard to get at. We'll never learn properly about "ourselves" as living organisms, if we don't accurately record our deaths. MRSA and other similar conditions will never be properly solved without supporting evidence.

Aug. 06 2008 11:57 AM
wendy from new york city

a comment for the caller with the child who has chronic fevers: Have you explored holistic medicine? Is it possible your child has a food allergy? Often times, our bodies manifest allergies to food in ways that attack the body. Perhaps explore the pH connection as well. Our food is so under-appreciated as a cause for illness, and MOST doctors know nothing about nutrition/food/health relationships, so it would be worth exploring on your own, and finding doctors that are informed in this area. If you don't work with such Dr.s, you will fine a very negative backlash from "ignorant" doctors who are not knowledgeable in this area. Personally, I think we are responsible for keeping ourselves healthy to the greatest degree that we are capable. Just persevere, and Good luck!

Aug. 06 2008 11:53 AM
j from nyc

how much of a role do the insurance companies play, given their divide & conquer stratification of the U.S. healthcare system?
Also, hospital boards of directors, their connections and not wanting to be listed as a hospital with a certain number of deaths, highrisk, etc.?

Aug. 06 2008 11:49 AM
Ciro M. DiSclafani from Hackensack, NJ

There is a way to greatly reduce the need to treat people with anti-biotics.

There are a couple of patented, non-toxic, safe, cleaner/protectants that, when applied to surfaces, fabrics and clothing will not only kill on contact, but will provide a safe, residual barrier to inhibit the regrowth of superbugs, including MRSA.

These products are not getting traction because of bureaucratic nonsense.

MRSA, Staph, Strep, E-Coli, Salmonella, Listeria can all be contained and controlled.

Most cleaners and sanitizers work by blanketing surfaces. Whatever microbes escape the "blanket" mutate.

These new products not only clean but provide a barrier coating that attract and destroy these microbes safely.

To understand more you can visit

Aug. 06 2008 11:48 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

What about docs wearing the blue and green scrubs outside the hospital. I understand they're comfortable, but should this be looked at?

Aug. 06 2008 11:46 AM
Anne from Midtown Manhattan

Is staph related to these superbugs? My dad had to have his leg amputated after a knee replacement because he had bad staph that would not go away.

Aug. 06 2008 11:46 AM
Rich from Staten Island

Hospital on Staten Island informs us three months after the fact that our relative has MRSA. Why the delay?

Aug. 06 2008 11:46 AM
mgdu from hell's kitchen

here's chickens coming home to roost with a vengeance.

the only way forward is to outlaw the profoundly vicious factory farming of animals.

Aug. 06 2008 11:40 AM
exlege from brooklyn

normal grass-fed bovine stomach ph is neutral. Feed lot cows who are fed only corn have stomachs with an acidic ph. their acidic stomach requires antibiotic to prevent infection. Bacteria surviving in feed lot cow stomachs are not killed by human stomach acids because they have been selected to survive in an acid environment. Feedlot techniques have opened up this method of bacterial trnasmission which was not ordinarily a viable method of transmission.

Aug. 06 2008 11:39 AM
David from Manhattan

Folks, stop using "antibacterial" hand soaps; they contribute to the superbug problem, many scientists believe.

The inclusion of anti-bac ingredients in consumer soaps is a mere marketing ploy--they don't work in momentary uses like hand-washing.

After hand-washing, the anti-bac chemicals don't break down, and so small residues of them kill *insignificant* amounts of germs, while fostering the germs' development of resistances!

Also, since they don't break down fast enough, they are getting into our bodies of fresh water, where, by killing bacteria there , they are affecting algae populations, and, therefore the entire ecosystem.

Stop using anti-bac soaps. They do no extra good for cleanliness (regular soap has proven just as effective), and they do do harm.

Aug. 06 2008 09:46 AM

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