Intestinal Infections May Kill 300 Per Day In Hospitals

A November 11, 2008, report from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, (APIC) suggests that there could be more than 7,000 infections and 300 deaths in U.S. hospitals on any single day from the drug resistant intestinal bacteria clostridium difficile, also called C. difficile. Several news publications ran stories on November 11, 2008 based on this report including the Chicago Tribune, MSNBC, and ABC News.

The stories note that as many as 13 out of every 1000 hospitalized Americans were infected with the C. difficile bacteria. This number is between 6.5 to 20 times higher than previously estimated. The infections are being blamed on overuse of antibiotics and improperly cleaned hospital rooms.

Dr. William R. Jarvis, the study’s lead author commented, “Hopefully this will be a wake-up call about the importance of preventing this organism.” He also noted that the incidence may actually be higher than his study suggests. He said, “Not only is it under-recognized and not tested for, but even when it’s tested for, you have a 25 percent chance you’re going to miss it.”

Epidemiologist Dr. L. Clifford McDonald, the CDC’s expert on C. difficile, said, “It’s important data that confirms that there’s an awful lot of this, that’s the bottom line.” He noted that the high use of antibiotics is a key factor in the spread of such resistant bacteria like C. diff. “We’ve long been encouraging the public not to demand antibiotics as a solution to all of their problems,” McDonald said. “This brings it home to roost, doesn’t it?”

Dr. Stuart Johnson, an associate professor of medicine at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research, voiced his comments to the Chicago Tribune article by adding, “This confirms what many of us have suspected: that this is a very widespread problem in virtually all hospitals.”

Dr. Jarvis concluded the ABC News story on this problem by saying, “I think it’s a combination of factors. One is that we know that our population is aging, and elderly patients are at the highest risk. We know that antibiotic use is increasing, that’s a risk factor for this. And we know that there’s been the introduction of a more virulent strain, which was first recognized up in Montreal, Canada, in Quebec.”