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Multidrug-Resistant Organism (MDRO)

What is a Multidrug-Resistant Organism?

A multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO) is a germ that resists many antibiotics. Antibiotics are medicines used to stop the growth of bacteria that cause infection.

Certain common antibiotics will not work to treat MDRO infections. This makes these infections hard to treat and cure.

Causes of MDROs

Germs can become resistant after the person takes antibiotics. To survive, the germs figure out ways to adapt and resist the effects of antibiotics.

MDROs develop when antibiotics:

  • Are taken longer than needed
  • Are taken when they are not needed

Examples of MDROs include:

  • Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)
  • Extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)
  • Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE)
Female medical personnel scrubs hands and arms with disinfectant soap.

Handwashing is effective in preventing the spread of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs).

How MDROs Spread

MDROs spread from patient to patient on the hands of:

  • Health care workers
  • Visitors
  • Family members

They can also spread when the germ gets on objects or surfaces such as:

  • Bed rails
  • Bedside tables
  • IV poles
  • Catheters

How MDROs Affect the Body

At times, an MDRO can make your child sick. In some cases, an MDRO can be present on or in your child’s body but might not cause illness. But it may spread to other children with weak immune systems and make them sick.

Risk Factors for MDRO Infections

Healthy people usually don’t get MDRO infections. Risk factors include:

  • Chronic illness
  • Weak immune system
  • Long use of antibiotics
  • Use of central venous catheters (central lines)
  • Use of urinary catheters
  • History of MDROs

Patients with cancer are more likely to get an MDRO. The infection might be related to:

  • Neutropenia (a low level of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that fights infection)
  • Mucositis (mouth sores)
  • Higher than normal level of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection
  • Use of medical devices placed fully or partially inside the body, such as catheters and ports

Treatment for MDROs

MDROs are hard to treat because they can resist many common antibiotics. But a few antibiotics can be used. Your child's doctor will decide what to use based on the germ and the infection’s location.

 How to Prevent MDROs

Do these things to help prevent the spread of MDROs:

  • Limit antibiotic use: Use antibiotics only when needed and for the shortest time possible.
  • Wash your hands: One of the best ways to control the spread of germs is to wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If using soap and water, rub your hands together for 20 seconds, rinse well, and dry thoroughly. Soap and water are best after using the restroom, changing a diaper, and cleaning up a child who has used the toilet.
  • Use isolation precautions: If your child has an MDRO, they will be placed in “contact precautions.” This term means that staff and visitors must wear a mask, gown, and gloves before entering your child’s room, remove them before leaving the patient’s room, and wash their hands often.
  • Disinfect surfaces: The hospital staff will clean your child’s hospital room and everything around your child.
  • Daily bath and linen change: A clean body and bed is important to prevent the spread of germs.

Key Points

  • A multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO) is a germ that can resist many antibiotics.
  • Some common antibiotics will not work to treat MDRO infections.
  • To prevent MDRO infections, wash your hands and use antibiotics only when needed.

Reviewed: July 2022