The results of a new study suggest that the number of infections in hospitals from C. diff (Clostridium difficile) are on the rise, just as medical facilities began to get a handle on MRSA hospital infections, which are commonly referred to as an antibiotic resistant “super bug.”
The report, presented by Duke University researchers over the weekend at the Fifth Decennial International Conference on Healthcare-Associated Infections in Atlanta, revealed that C. diff hospital infections were 25% more common than methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in hospitals that were part of the study.
Researchers looked at 28 community hospitals in the southeastern U.S. which were part of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network. The hospitals recorded 847 C. diff infections in 2008 and 2009, and only 680 cases of MRSA.
Not only did they find that hospital-acquired C. diff was on the rise as MRSA infections declined, but they also discovered that 90% of all hospital-acquired C. diff infections occurred after the patient had been given antibiotics. Researchers say that this is because antibiotics kill off much of the “good” bacteria that helps the body combat infections, allowing C. diff to flourish.
C. diff lives in the human gut and its spores can be found in feces. It can live for weeks on hard surfaces and can withstand cleaning by many disinfectants and alcohol-based sanitizers and still live on to infect humans. C. diff causes intestinal infections that can be very painful and in rare cases can be deadly.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, There are about 215,000 hospital C. diff infections in the U.S. each year, and 263,000 cases of nursing home C. diff infections. The bacteria claims about 9,000 lives in the U.S. annually.
C. diff still has quite a ways to catch up to the prevalence of MRSA. The CDC reports that there are more than 2 million hospital infections acquired each year, resulting in about 90,000 deaths annually. Another 1.5 million long term care and nursing home infections occur every year. MRSA, which resists treatment by many antibiotics, has accounted for more than 60 percent of hospital staph infections in recent years.
In recent years, there has been an increasing number of hospital infection lawsuits filed throughout the United States, as experts believe that most of these potentially life-threatening infections can be prevented if steps are taken by the hospital and staff.
These steps could include improved methods of handling catheter during insertion, leaving them in for shorter periods and improved hygiene. Many hospitals have instituted new rules to ensure that hands are washed and increased efforts are being taken to keep areas lie the ICU more sterile and catheters clean.