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Study: C.Difficile Common In U.S. Hospitals

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, November 12, 2008 12:48 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Protecting Your Family, Diarrhea, Bacteria, Clostridium Difficile, C. Diff., Hospital infections, Superbugs


IMAGE SOURCE:© Wikimedia Commons / Clostridium difficile / author: Angusmclellan

An often deadly stomach bug is six times more common in U.S. hospitals than previously believed, said researchers on Tuesday.

The bacterium, Clostridium difficile, known also as C. diff, is resistant to many antibiotic medications and has become a regular nuisance in hospitals.

An estimated 13 of every 1,000 patients are infected with C. diff, says the The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

According to the group, these estimates are 20 times higher than previously [loose] estimates and adds as many as 7,000 patients on any given day.

Clostridium difficile, an intestinal bacteria – is a bacteria that can cause intestinal infections and diarrhea.

The CDC estimates C. diff contributes to between 15,000 to 30,000 deaths annually. There are an estimated 500,000 cases in the U.S. each year.

“The study findings show that C. diff is an escalating issue in our nation’s health care facilities,” said Dr. William Jarvis, lead author of the study. Jarvis, a former scientist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a consulting epidemiologist for the APIC.

The association collected figures about all diagnosed cases of C. diff in a single day between May and August 2008 spanning 648 hospitals. The data included 12.5 percent of all U.S. medical facilities including cancer, cardiac, children’s and rehabilitation hospitals.

“You can get disease that ranges from a single day of diarrhea, all the way to perforation of the bowel requiring surgery, shock and even death,” said Jarvis.

Past studies attempted to measure the germ’s occurrence in different ways, making comparisons with previous estimates nearly impossible. However, researchers believe their latest estimates indicate the bacteria are much more prevalent than previously believed.

Antibiotics kill natural bacteria’s in the gut which allows germs, such as C. difficile to grow. And may promote spore formation that are resistant to non-bleach cleaners and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

“Antibiotics don’t kill it, nor do most germicides or disinfectants. Only bleach can.”

“Most U.S. hospitals fail to consistently follow basic infection control guidelines against C. diff and health care consumers have the right know,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Stop Hospital Infections Campaign, in a statement.

The study findings appear in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC).

Given the outbreak of six lethal conditions that lead to 1.7 million hospital infections a year, the nation’s top epidemiologists along with leading hospital groups, have issued new guidelines aimed at limiting hospital infections. You can read about them here. #

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