Influence of Antibiotic Use on Common Healthcare-Associated Infection: C. diff

Person pouring antibiotics in had from a pill bottle, Taking antibiotics increases your chance of contracting C. diff

As we discussed in a previous article, hospitals are a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal infections. Healthcare-associated infections affect 1 in 31 hospital patients daily and can have serious implications on the healthcare industry. One of the most prevalent HAIs in hospitals is C. diff, also known as Clostridioides difficile, which is a “bacterium that causes diarrhea and colitis” (colon inflammation). C. diff causes an estimated 500,000 thousand infections in the U.S. each year and can be life-threatening if not treated in a timely manner.

Causes of C. diff

C. diff bacteria enters the body via the mouth and through the digestive tract where it colonizes and reproduces in the small intestine. Once the bacteria reach the large intestine, it becomes active and “can release toxins that damage tissues,” which cause inflammation and irritation of the colon.

While the bacteria aren’t harmful outside of the colon, inactive C. diff bacteria can be found in/on feces, surfaces, unwashed hands, soil, water, and food. A percentage of the population can carry C. diff bacteria without ever showing symptoms or getting sick. This poses a threat to others as these individuals can unknowingly spread the bacteria to surfaces and other people, especially because C. diff can live outside the body and spreads easily.

Risk Factors of C. diff

While C. diff can affect anyone, the CDC states that those who are taking or have recently taken antibiotics are 7 to 10 times more likely to get C. diff. Taking antibiotics increases your chance of contracting C. diff due to the antibiotics ability to kill both bad and good germs, including the germs that fight off infections.

However, the use of antibiotics is not the only risk factor associated with C. diff. According to the CDC, other risk factors include older age (65+), previous C. diff exposure, a recent hospital or nursing home stay, and weakened immune system. Any person that has experienced any or all risk factors is at a heightened risk of contracting C. diff and other HAIs.

Identifying C. diff

It can take a few days to a few weeks for C. diff to develop and for symptoms to begin showing. The most prevalent symptoms include diarrhea, dehydration, fever, stomach pain/tenderness, loss of appetite, and nausea. Because C. diff is contagious, it is important to maintain good hygiene practices like washing your hands after using the bathroom and before eating.

When it comes to preventing the spread, mechanical cleaning can help deter direct-contact transmission. According to the CDC, “About 1 in 6 people who get C. diff infection will get it again in the subsequent 2-8 weeks.” This makes taking precautions in the weeks after diagnosis even more important to reduce transmission and mitigate the risk of infecting others. However, mechanical cleaning isn’t always the most reliable source for reducing pathogens as it requires increased labor, which is hard to come by.

Healthcare providers know that those most at risk include individuals who are in skilled nursing facilities and long-term care hospitals. Per the CDC, “One in 11 people over age 65 diagnosed with a healthcare-associated C. diff infection die within one month.” This puts around 83.1% of nursing home residents 65 or older across the U.S. at risk for contracting C. diff as exposure to bacteria is increased, especially when combined with the multiple risk factors of age, immunity, location, and antibiotic use.

Healthcare providers also understand the demand that HAIs have on their staff not only for treatment but maintaining a clean and comfortable environment for their patients. In order to keep up with the demand as these facilities experience staff shortages, we suggest implementing a multi-faceted approach to infection prevention that includes mechanical cleaning and ActivePure® Technology. Our proprietary technology inactivates pathogens in the air and on surfaces, which allows for up to 99.9% reduction of contaminants. ActivePure is proven against a wide range of pathogens including C. diff, SARS-CoV-2, and C. auris.

Provide peace of mind for your patients and their families by choosing ActivePure for your business. For the full list of pathogens that are treated by devices with ActivePure® Technology, visit our scientific proof page.

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