According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's JAMA Internal Medicine, close to a 25 percent of the patients carried some sort of drug-resistant germ on their hands when they were discharged from the hospital to a post-acute care facility such as a nursing home, rehabilitation center or hospice. The findings support what many health care experts have been arguing for years: that patients are a major source of the spread of "superbug" infections.

NBC News reported that roughly 2 million people get sick every year with antibiotic-resistant infections in the U.S. and about 23,000 die. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in 25 U.S. hospital patients has caught an infection while in the hospital.

To combat the spread of infections, serious attention has been given to the hand washing practices of doctors, nurses, environmental services staff and other hospital personnel. But little attention was given to patients.

Researchers decided to study patients at six post-hospital facilities in metropolitan Detroit and Southeast Michigan. Swabs were taken of palms, fingers and around the nails of patients. Tests were done when patients were initially admitted, two weeks later and then again once a month for the next six months.

It was determined that more than 24 percent of patients had at least one harmful germ — including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), and resistant gram-negative bacilli — when they were discharged from the hospital.

More were reported on patients in rehabs and nursing homes — 34.2 percent of patients' hands (122 of 357) were colonized with a multi-drug-resistant organism.

And two-thirds of patients leaving rehab facilities or nursing homes still had germs on their hands.

To read more about this study, click here.