New York Health Officials Investigate Nursing Home Infections from Tainted IV Products

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NY Health Officials Investigate Nursing Home Infections
NY Health Officials Investigate Nursing Home Infections

According to the New York Department of Health, nearly three dozen patients at nursing homes statewide may have developed bloodstream infections from contaminated intravenous products.

Health department investigators say 54 facilities purchased the products, Newsday reports. Investigators are looking at one patient death as part of the probe, but a health department spokesperson said they could not say the infection was responsible for the death.

The state is investigating 34 infections involving patients in long-term health care facilities, most of them in New York City, according to Newsday. The products involved are intravenous medications and “flushes,” products such as sterile saline that are used to clear intravenous lines of obstructions.

Officials did not specify the manufacturers or distributors, but did say the tainted products came from two companies. One company provides pharmacy services to nursing homes in the New York metropolitan region, the other manufactures medical products, including saline flushes. The state released the names the 54 nursing homes that purchase from the two companies, but did not identify the ones where patient infections occurred.

Mindy Grant, administrator of Meadowbrook Care Center in Freeport (on Long Island), one of the facilities on the list, said there have been no infections among her patients, according to Newsday. But the center does use one of the distributors connected with the contaminated products.

The health department information suggests that intravenous products were contaminated with Burkholderia cepacia bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to B. cepacia as a bacterial complex, usually associated with soil or water. The bacteria are harmless to healthy people but can cause illness—or even death—for those with weakened immune systems or chronic lung disease.

B.cepacia has become increasingly antibiotic resistant, according to the CDC. The bacteria rebuff medications developed to destroy them. Bloodstream infections caused by B. cepacia — and linked to tainted intravenous products — are also under investigation in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to Newsday.

New York health officials and investigators from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating how the intravenous products may have been contaminated.

Dr. Luis Martinez, an associate professor of biomedical science at New York Institute of Technology’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, explains that infections are harder to treat when drug-resistant bacteria cause them. These bacteria are circulating worldwide. B. cepacia is a Gram-negative bacterium, which means it is structurally complex with a double membrane. Most Gram-negative bacteria, such as drug resistant E. coli, are very difficult to fight, Martinez said.

Health officials are seriously concerned about the problem of drug-resistant bacteria and what this could mean in the future if effective antibiotics are not available. The World Health Organization (WHO) cites antibiotic resistance as “one of the biggest threats to global health today. It can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.” According to the WHO, “A growing number of infections—such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhoea—are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.”

Only a handful of antibiotics have been developed in recent years and hardly any are for Gram-negative bacteria like B. cepacia, Martinez said.