Clostridium difficile caused almost half a million infections among patients in the United States in a single year, according to a new CDC study. C. difficile causes inflammation of the colon and deadly diarrhea.
CDC’s new study of data from 2011 found that:
- C. difficile infections cause immense suffering and death for thousands of Americans each year.
- An estimated 15,000 deaths are directly attributable to C. difficile infections, making it a substantial cause of infectious disease death in the United States.
- Risk of C. difficile infection and death increases with age. Thousands of C. difficile infections develop among residents of U.S. nursing homes each year, and a majority of the deaths associated with C. difficile occur among Americans 65 or older.
Previous studies indicate that C. difficile has become the most common pathogen identified as the cause of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals and costs up to $4.8 billion each year in excess healthcare costs for acute care facilities alone. Taking antibiotics is the most important risk factor for developing C. difficile infections. These devastating infections can be avoided by improving antibiotic prescribing and infection control across our healthcare system. Unnecessary antibiotic use in patients at one facility can cause spread of C. difficile in another facility when patients transfer. To help hospitals develop antibiotic prescribing improvement programs (also called “antibiotic stewardship” programs), CDC has developed several tools, including a list of Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Programs and anaccompanying checklist.
Over the next five years, CDC’s efforts to combat C. difficile infections and antibiotic resistance under the National Strategy to Combat Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB) will enhance national capabilities for antibiotic stewardship, outbreak surveillance, and antibiotic resistance prevention. These efforts hold the potential to cut the incidence of C. difficile infections in half.