SEARCHING FOR A SUPERBUG Washington, D.C. hospitals are launching a citywide search for the multidrug-resistant bacteria carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, the Washington Business Journal reports. The District of Columbia Hospital Association and participating hospitals are doing a study with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in which they seek to test patients for CRE to get an idea of its prevalence, and threat, in each facility. "While CRE is still a rare event, it can spread outside the gut quickly,” says Robert Malson, Esq., D.C. Hospital Association president. Although there hasn’t been a significant CRE problem reported in the city, the study will give hospitals a chance to understand how prevalent the antibiotic-resistant germ is in the city. According to the CDC, CRE can contribute to death in up to 50 percent of patients who become infected. The CDC is also looking to hospitals to step up in the battle to combat antibiotic overuse.

SEARCHING FOR HAND-WASHING SCOFFLAWS In the future, Microsoft may know whether you washed your hands after visiting the restroom. Time reports on a newly released study by Microsoft and Gojo Industries, the makers of Purell hand sanitizer, that measured hand-washing prevalence with counters that tallied up the number of bathroom visits, and sensors on soap and sanitizer dispensers at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. Numbers from 2012 crunched by Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service found hand-washing compliance of 16.5 percent in the medical, surgical and infectious disease units of the hospital. (That is the percentage of times hands were washed when presented with the opportunity to do so.) Using that initial 10-day measurement as a baseline, the hospital then made staff, patients and visitors aware of the study for 80 days and saw the rate rise to 31.7 percent. Over the final 50 days, reminders were taken down and the compliance rate dropped to 25.8 percent, still higher than the baseline. Perhaps the threat that your bathroom habits might end up “in the cloud” is a strong incentive to remember to wash. Of course, as we have reported, there are additional things hospitals should be looking at when it comes to infection control.

organ-plush-posterJUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: CUDDLY STUFFED INTERNAL ORGANS You thought we were kidding, but once you get a load of these “I Heart Guts” plush toys, or pillows, or … something, you might want to pick some up. Online women’s magazine Bustle.com showcases the work of artist Wendy Bryan Lazar, who says the heart, kidney, intestines, pancreas, liver and more that she designs have become popular with chronically ill patients and are frequent, comforting companions of these patients during hospital visits.

ARE MEN REALLY SHOWING OFF BY EATING MORE? A study by Cornell University researchers, in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science, finds that men will eat nearly twice as much when they dine with women. The study of the lunch crowd at an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet showed men who dined with at least one woman ate 93 percent more pizza and 86 percent more salad than men who dined with only other men. "These findings suggest that men tend to overeat to show off — you can also see this tendency in eating competitions, which almost always have mostly male participants," explains lead author Kevin Kniffin, of Cornell University. So, how much would a guy eat if he signs up for what is likely just a theoretical event that combines speed dating and competitive pizza-eating?

MAYBE MEN ARE JUST NOT EATING WITH WOMEN AS MUCH For all the news about how we’re eating ourselves to death — men in particular, see above — it looks like Americans actually are scaling back. Harvard researchers said in Health Affairs this week that improvement in U.S. dietary quality contributed to the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes and may have prevented 1.1 million premature deaths. The study shows that our overall diet got better between 1999 and 2012, but that doesn’t mean it’s steak burritos all around. “Overall dietary quality in the United States remains poor. Policy initiatives are needed to ensure further improvements.”