HLAC: Following WHO ‘Superbug’ List

The Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC) is encouraging its accredited laundries to remind their healthcare customers of the benefits of having an HLAC-accredited laundry as a textile provider. This, following the recent publication of a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) that includes its first ever list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens.”

The WHO report lists 12 bacterial threats and ranks them into three categories according to the urgency of the need for new antibiotics: critical, high and medium priority.

“WHO has made it clear that their list is not meant to scare people about new superbugs, but that it’s intended to signal those areas of focus to address urgent public health threats,” said John Scherberger, HLAC board president. “Most of the bacteria families listed by WHO are familiar to those of us in the healthcare laundry industry. In fact, they’ve been the focus of HLAC’s processes for more than 10 years.”

HLAC board member Carol McLay DrPH, MPH, RN, CIC FAPIC, noted, “HLAC Accreditation verifies that a laundry facility’s operational processes have been independently inspected and adhere to professional recognized infection prevention and control policies that are so critical in this era of rapidly growing antimicrobial resistance. Our standards are designed to ensure that our accredited laundries support effective, evidence-based infection prevention strategies with the goal of improving patient outcomes.”

Scherberger said, “We believe our accredited laundries would want to confidently reinforce this reassuring message to their healthcare customers, and we hope they do.”

Critical, High, Medium Priority       

According to Dr. McLay, the bacteria in WHO’s most critical group are those that pose a significant threat to HLAC customers in hospitals, nursing homes and among patients with medical devices such as ventilators and blood catheters. They include AcinetobacterPseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae (including KlebsiellaE. coliSerratia, and Proteus). These bacteria have become resistant to a great number of antibiotics and can cause severe and often fatal infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

Included in the high priority category are methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, or VRE. This category includes other increasingly drug-resistant bacteria that cause more common diseases such as gonorrhea and food poisoning caused by salmonella.

The WHO’s third or “medium priority,” category includes drug-resistantStreptococcus pneumoniae, which may cause pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, as well as meningitis and blood infections. Also listed is Haemophilus influenzaeand Shigella, bacteria that cause severe illnesses, especially in children, and are becoming increasingly resistant to available drugs.