Long-term care homes across Ontario are trying to fight infection outbreaks by participating in a voluntary study examining prevalent bacteria.

Public Health Ontario examined more than 600 homes over the past month for antibiotic-resistant organisms, which can fuel three types of infections.

This is a key study, according to Collette Ouellet from Public Health Ontario, because while hospitals track the prevalence of the organisms, long-term care homes do not.

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Villa Marconi, a long-term care home on Baseline Road in Ottawa, is one of more than 600 homes studied for antibiotic-resistant organisms. (Google Streetview)

There is concern antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become more common inside nursing homes, she added, and this is the first step in gaining better knowledge.

"Three of these antibiotic resistant organisms have historically been thought to be a hospital problem. So where there's a hospital problem it will inevitably impact other areas," said Ouellet, a network coordinator with the arms-length government agency.

The three organisms examined among residents at the homes included methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin resistant Enterococci (VRE) and extended spectrum Beta-lactamase producers (ESBL).

Study sees high response from Ontario homes

About 80 per cent of Ontario's long-term care homes volunteered for the study, including Ottawa's Villa Marconi. This is the first time many homes are opening their doors to find out more about how bacteria exist there.

"We wanted to know, what are the incidents and how we rank among the others in terms of number of people infected," said Mario Jacques, the director of care at Villa Marconi.

Jacques added many homes are concerned about recent bacteria outbreaks such as C. difficile, which led to such a high number of Ontario's long-term care homes participating in the study.

The study, which was conducted over the past month, saw an unusually high response rate for this type of work. That is because the homes were allowed to remain anonymous, one researcher said.

"When you're collecting data on sensitive information, an anonymous reporting system can help," said Khaled El Emam, a scientist with the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

El Emam helped develop the software that tracked the infection information, which allowed the homes to remain anonymous.