One in four senior patients leave the hospital with superbugs, a new study found.

The researchers headed by a team at the University of Michigan recruited 357 older hospital patients who had continued to receive medical care at a post-acute facility (PAC) in southeast Michigan to assess whether or not they had any superbugs on their hands. The patients were initially admitted to the hospital for a medical or surgical issue.

The researchers found that right after a hospital stay, 24.1 percent of geriatric patients had at least one superbug, also known as a multidrug-resistant organism, on their hands. Superbugs can lead to potentially dangerous health situations since they cannot be treated with some of the most commonly used antibiotics.

Two weeks after the patients checked into a PAC facility, the researchers found that the superbugs had persisted. On top of that, even more seniors, at 34.2 percent, had evidence of at least one superbug on their hands, which suggested that the patients were being exposed to superbugs in the PAC facility. The researchers stressed the importance of educating seniors about good hand hygiene.

"We've been educating healthcare workers for decades about hand hygiene, and these numbers show it's time to include patients in their own hand hygiene performance and education," said Lona Mody, the study's lead author and an associate chief for clinical and translational research at the U-M Geriatrics Center. "Patient hand washing is not a routine practice in hospitals. We need to build on the overarching principles we've already developed with adult learning theories and bring them to patients."

One strategy that has the potential to be very effective at getting patients to practice hand hygiene involves showing them how these superbugs grow and stay on their hands via lab samples. Mody stated that patients are always surprised to see the amount of superbugs that can thrive on their hands.

The research team also created a toolkit titled TIP Study toolkit that uses a combination of educational posters, trivia and an on-site infection prevention specialists to prevent the spread of superbugs.

This study's findings were published just a few days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report that stressed the importance of preventing the spread of superbugs.

"New data show that far too many patients are getting infected with dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria in healthcare settings," CDC Director Tom Frieden said. "Doctors and healthcare facilities have the power to protect patients - no one should get sick while trying to get well."

The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.