RI, Miriam hospitals receive new designation for efforts to prevent antibiotic overuse


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Two hospitals in Rhode Island are being recognized for their efforts to stem antibiotic overuse and deter drug-resistant superbugs.

The Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital, have each been designated as an Antimicrobial Stewardship Center of Excellence by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

The Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at both hospitals have been active since 2014.

The designation recognizes hospitals that have created programs to advance antimicrobial resistance science. Both Lifespan hospitals are now among just 145 programs worldwide since 2017 to have been designated a Center of Excellence for antimicrobial stewardship.

While there are many public health concerns, including the COVID-19 pandemic and opioid epidemic, Dr. Cheston Cunha, who serves as medical director for Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at both hospitals, said drug-resistant superbugs are also very dangerous.

“Antibiotic resistance is a pandemic in and of itself. It doesn’t have the same pace as COVID, but it is a tremendous public health threat,” Cunha said.

The Antimicrobial Stewardship Program involves pharmacy, microbiology, infection control and other hospital departments working together to monitor patients with infections and taking antimicrobials.

“What we try to do is make sure that their antibiotics are as fine-tuned and tailored to their disease as possible,” Cunha said. “These microbes, if they’re exposed to antibiotics that have a high potential to make them resistant, or if they’re exposed to antibiotics when a patient doesn’t need it, then you may breed some of these superbugs that will make it much, much harder if not impossible to treat down the road if it causes an infection.”

Cunha said the benefits of a program like this one include limiting antimicrobial resistance, as well as decreasing C. difficile infections, which can cause severe, and sometimes deadly damage to the colon.

Having this kind of a program in place can also leads to shorter length of stay and fewer side effects for patients, according to Cunha.

“Overall, a lot of great outcomes that the system and that the patients are looking for,” Cunha said.

The program also played a major role in the pandemic in creating guidelines for the use of monoclonal antibody treatments and other therapies used to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

“We were very involved in creating the outpatient monoclonal clinic, particularly during our winter spike of last year, and we were able to get that up and running within a week of the EUA being granted and really, I think, prevented a lot of folks from ending up in the hospital in critical time,” Cunha said.

The core criteria for the Center of Excellence program places emphasis on an institution’s ability to implement stewardship protocols by integrating best practices to slow the emergence of resistance, optimize the treatment of infections and reduce adverse events associated with antibiotic use, according to Lifespan.

Back in 2018, Lifespan also obtained a five-year $9.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish its Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for Antimicrobial Resistance and Therapeutic Discovery.

The funding has allowed researchers at both hospitals to dive deeper into the causes of antibiotic resistance, as well as identify potential new drugs.

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