A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly half a million people in the United States suffered from C. difficile infections in a single year.
What is C Difficile?
Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is a bacterial infection that leads to inflammation of the colon and potentially deadly diarrhea.
"C. difficile has become the most common microbial cause of healthcare-associated infection in U.S. hospitals and costs up to $4.8 million each year in excess health care costs for acute care facilities alone," according to the CDC. In Maryland, the rate of C. difficile is 16% higher than the national average.
Why is C. difficile the most common healthcare-associated infection?
C. difficile is the most common healthcare-associated infection because "Patients who take antibiotics are most at risk for developing C. difficile infections…studies have shown that 30 percent to 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed in hospitals are unnecessary or incorrect." The CDC continues:
"When a person takes broad-spectrum antibiotics, beneficial bacteria that are normally present in the human gut and protect against infection can be suppressed for several weeks to months. During this time, patients can get sick from C. difficile picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread person to person. Unnecessary antibiotic use and poor infection control may increase the spread of C. difficile within a facility and from facility to facility when infected patients transfer, such as from a hospital to a nursing home."
C. Difficile Statistics
- 29,000 patients died within 30 days of their initial diagnosis. 15,000 of these deaths could be directly attributed to the C. difficile infection.
- Americans 65 or older accounted for more than 80% of C. difficile-related deaths.
- 1 in 5 patients that contracted C. difficile in a healthcare setting had a recurrence of the infection.
- Community-associated infections accounted for 150,000 of documented infections. But of these, 82% of patients said they had been in an outpatient healthcare setting in the 3 months prior to the C. difficile diagnosis.
- "It is estimated that more than 50 percent of antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily in outpatient settings for upper respiratory infections like cough and cold illness, most of which are caused by viruses [which cannot be killed by antibiotics]."
- England has managed to reduce the rate of C. difficile infections by more than 60% as a result of improvements in antibiotic prescribing practices.