November is Clostridium difficile Awareness Month
Help stop the spread of this deadly pathogen
If anyone you know has contracted Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff, you’re already familiar with just how debilitating and frustrating this infection can be — not only at the time of infection, but in many cases for years afterward. Despite the harrowing tales of C. diff victims, most people have never heard of this potentially deadly pathogen.
The infection is frequently acquired in healthcare settings or as a result of taking heavy-duty antibiotics and merits attention in the general public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that nearly 500,000 people were infected with C. diff in 2011; 29,000 of those people died within a month of diagnosis.
The CDC lists infection control guidelines for medical teams to help check the spread of this pathogen, including careful prescribing practices and use of antibiotics; tracking and sharing information about infections with any relevant clinical settings; immediate isolation of C. diff patients; and daily room cleanings. Taking extra care to wear gowns and gloves, and recognizing that hand sanitizer does not kill the bacteria are simple and sensible steps to help eliminate this healthcare scourge. None of these recommendations is unique to curbing C. diff, which is why general awareness of the risk of this infection and basic infection-control procedures is so important.
CDC guidelines also call for prompt testing of patients suspected to have C. diff — diarrhea is one of the first symptoms. Molecular tests offer faster results than culture-based tests, allowing physicians to quickly adjust antibiotic use when needed and reducing risks associated with broad-spectrum antibiotics, especially for elderly or immunocompromised patients. In an economic evaluation, scientists determined that rapid, on-demand, PCR-based testing for suspected C. diff cases offered the most useful, accurate results and also lowered health care costs. Diagnostics, like our ARIES® C. difficile Assay, fall into this category and provide important benefits by generating answers in less than two hours with minimal hands-on time.
During this month of C. diff awareness, please help us in getting the message out. C. diff is a dangerous infection, but chances of acquiring it can be minimized when people understand the risks and take appropriate preventive steps.