What makes hospital-acquired infections so intractable? There’s no question that some of the organisms that cause them are tricky: MRSA hangs out on the skin and and in the nostrils, and E. coli resides in the gut, making it easy for them to be carried into hospitals undetected. Hospital workers’ poor performance on hand-washing is well-documented. And recently, researchers have begun to wonder whether hospitals have missed an opportunity by not emphasizing environmental cleaning —- of rooms, computers and equipment, for instance -— given how persistently some bacteria can linger.
A new paper in PLoS One, though, says there’s another factor contributing to the problem, one that has missed consideration until now: weather. An 8-year study of infection data from 132 hospitals finds that as outside temperatures rise, in-hospital infections with some of the most problematic pathogens rise also.
The analysis is a warning to healthcare institutions to be additionally on guard when it is warm outside. But the authors say it’s also a warning to the rest of us: If global climate change raises ambient temperatures, it could increase the likelihood of deadly hospital infections as well.