Hospitals are having difficulty gaining control over a number of drug-resistant infections. Clostridium difficile (C. diff) is “fast emerging as one of the most dangerous and virulent” strains of bacteria, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to CDC estimates, the rate of C. diff infections has skyrocketed in recent years, rising from roughly 150,000 cases in 2001 to a staggering 500,000 cases and contributing to some 15,000 to 30,000 deaths annually. C. diff infections often occur when healthy bacteria in the intestine is killed by the administration of antibiotics for another illness, allowing the previously controlled C.diff bacteria to multiply and potentially leading to severe diarrhea, ruptured colons, perforated bowels, kidney failure, blood poisoning, or death.
The Journal notes that only 3% to 5% of healthy, non-hospitalized adults are thought to carry C. diff in their intestine, although the rates are much higher in hospitals and long-term care facilities, where about 20% and 55% of patients, respectively, are C. diff carriers. Hospitals are taking a number of steps to get C. diff in control, including limiting use of antibiotics, isolating patients, protective clothing for hospital staff and visitors, hand hygiene practices, and cleaning rooms with bleach. (SOURCES: Advisory Board Daily Briefing , www.advisory.com, September 17, 2008; Wall Street Journal [Landro], http://wsj.com , September 17, 2008)