C. Diff Infections in U.S. Hospitals Nearly Doubled Over Decade: Study

The rates of hospital infections involving Clostridium difficile, or C diff, nearly doubled in the United States between 2001 and 2010, according to a new report that suggest the increase may be linked to the overuse of antibiotics.

In a study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, researchers from the University of Texas College of Pharmacy used data from the U.S. National Hospital Discharge Surveys to evaluate information on 2.2 million adults hospitalized during the study period.

Hospital C. diff infection rates increased from 4.5 per 1,000 adult discharges in 2001 to 8.2 per 1,000 patients in 2010. Death rates from C. diff also increased over the study period, from 6.6% in 2001 to 7.2% in 2010.

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The average length of hospital stay with C. diff was eight days and remained similar over the study period, with most of the patients being white women over the age of 65.

Hospital acquired infections like C. diff, are linked to 14,000 deaths a year in the U.S.

Researchers attribute the increase in C. diff hospital infections over the past decade to the overuse of antibiotics, which has been cited as a growing health concern in the U.S.

Patients acquire C. Diff when micro-organisms grow out of control, thus releasing toxins that attack the lining of the digestive tract. Normally, human intestines have as many as 1,000 microorganisms living in them, the majority are harmless, sometimes even helpful. However, when antibiotics are introduced, this can often turn the microorganisms toxic.

C. diff is typically treated with antibiotics, but in some cases patients will require surgery to remove the infected portion of the intestines.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say reducing use of antibiotics by at least 30% could potentially lower C. Diff rates by 26%..

A study published last year revealed many hospitals fail to undertake simple sanitary measure that could prevent the spread of C. diff.

The 2013 Clostridium difficult infection Pace of Progress survey found only 21% of facilities implemented infection prevention staff and 61% had antimicrobial stewardship programs in place.

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