Superbug C-diff passes MRSA in number of hospital cases nationwide

Apr 4 2010 - 11:44pm

OGDEN -- A bacterium superbug is on the rise in hospitals across the nation, but so far, Top of Utah hospitals are not seeing an increase.

Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, is surpassing the widely feared Methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA, in number of cases, according to the national Centers for Disease Control.

"We aren't seeing many cases of C-diff at Ogden Regional Medical Center, but it's a hot topic in the news right now because it's another bacterium that is becoming increasingly drug resistant," said Jeanette Smyth, hospital infection-control specialist at Ogden Regional Medical Center.

C-diff is a bacterial illness spread by fecal spores, but the most common way of getting the infection is through antibiotic use, said Dustin Waters, a pharmacist over infectious disease at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden.

"It can sometimes be a life-threatening infection," Waters said. "The No. 1 cause is antibiotic use, but it can also be spread from person to person."

Waters said McKay-Dee Hospital has not been experiencing an increase in C-diff like in many parts of the country.

However, he said the best way to prevent the infection is to wash your hands and use antibiotics with caution.

The intestinal tract has millions of good bacteria that keep diseases like C-diff in check. However, when an antibiotic is taken, the amount of good bacteria is reduced, Waters said.

If the antibiotic isn't strong enough to keep the C-diff in check, C-diff overpopulates inside the colon and causes illness.

C-diff can also survive for weeks or months on hard surfaces including bed rails, call buttons, faucets, privacy curtains, even nurse uniforms.

The main danger associated with C-diff is severe diarrhea, sometimes up to 15 times a day, which can lead to dehydration and an imbalance in electrolytes, Waters said.

Some patients can go on to develop inflammation of the colon and could even die, he said.

According to the CDC, more than 28,000 people die of C-diff each year.

A study of 28 Southeast hospitals done by Duke University showed C-diff was 25 percent more common than MRSA.

The data was released recently at the Fifth Decennial International Conference on Healthcare-Associated Infections conference in Atlanta.

The study also showed MRSA, a serious skin and soft-tissue infection, has been falling in hospitals nationwide.

Strict guidelines on hand-washing and cleaning can help control the C-diff problem.

Prevention initiatives have been created in response to the C-diff increase, Smyth said, and Ogden Regional has adopted those guidelines.

Waters said McKay-Dee Hospital is also following strict guidelines.

"The most effective way to prevent C-diff is to wash your hands, and with C-diff, you need to use soap and water because the spores that are produced from the bug aren't killed off by hand sanitizers," he said.

"Limit your use of antibiotics as well. If you don't need one, don't insist on taking one."

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