Hospital Antibiotics May Increase C. Diff Infection Risk For Next Patient in Same Bed: Study

New research warns that patients may be more likely to get a hospital-acquired infection if they are in a bed that was last used by another patient who was treated with antibiotics. 

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on October 10, researchers found that patients occupying the same bed space following a prior patient’s receipt of antibiotics were more likely to subsequently contract clostridium difficile colitis (CDI), also known as c. diff, which is a serious infection that causes inflammation of the colon.

Researchers set out to examine how one patients receipt of antibiotics may impact surrounding non-antibiotic treated patients, and if the risk of infections increased. Lead author, Daniel Freedberg, MD, MS, Division of Digestive and Liver Disease of the Columbia University Medical Center, designed the study to identify the potential alteration of local microenvironments that may affect patients’ risk for c. diff infections.

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The retrospective cohort study used data from adult patients hospitalized in four New York facilities between 2010 and 2015. Researchers used electronic time stamps to identify sequential patients who occupied given hospital beds, under the criteria that patients spent at least 24 hours within the facility and were not diagnosed with c. diff before entering.

Freedberg’s research team collected data on 100,615 pairs of patients who sequentially occupied a given hospital bed within the four hospitals and found 576 pairs in which subsequent patients developed clostridium difficile colitis. After assessing various additional risk factors that could have contributed to clostridium difficile colitis infections, researchers found a 22% relative increase in risk for infections in subsequent patients who occupied the same bed as those that received antibiotic treatments.

Widespread use of antibiotics in hospitals has become a growing concern, due to the long established evidence that antibiotic prescription in hospital settings is a crucial risk factor for clostridium difficile colitis infection outbreaks. Several studies have shown antibiotics are over and unnecessarily prescribed, increasing individual risk for clostridium difficile colitis.

In a study published by JAMA in May this year, researchers found antibiotics were prescribed unnecessarily 30% of the time. This included prescriptions that were given to treat viral infections and prescriptions that were given for the incorrect length of time.

Using antibiotics inappropriately contributes to the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria, making it more difficult to treat infections. Research published in March by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates one-in-seven hospital acquired infections are now antibiotic resistant, focusing scrutiny on the way doctors treat antibiotic resistant infections, especially with unnecessary rounds of antibiotics.

Other research indicates more than 23,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic resistant bacteria and 2 million become sick due to the so called superbugs every year.


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