C. Difficile Deaths Rise Dramatically

Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Published Online: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Deaths from infection with the gut bacteria quadrupled between 2000 and 2007, hitting the elderly particularly hard.

Annual deaths due to Clostridium difficile infection quadrupled between 2000 and 2007, to 14,000, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports. More than 90% of patients who died from infection were aged 65 years or older, while just over half of those infected were aged 65 years or older. A significant portion of the increase is attributed to the emergence of drug-resistant strains of C. difficile.
C. difficile, which causes diarrhea and inflammation of the bowels, spreads via fecal contamination and tends to infect people whose native gut bacteria have been wiped out by antibiotics. The CDC report urges health officials to help fight its spread. “C. difficile harms patients just about everywhere medical care is given,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “Illness and death linked to this deadly disease do not have to happen.”
According to the report, 94% of cases are related to medical care in locations such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, and nursing homes. Pharmacists working in these environments should be aware of the potential for infection and look to implement practices to prevent the bacteria’s spread. C. difficile produces spores that can remain intact for months, so when an infected patient comes into contact with an area, it should be sterilized before other patients use it.

Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and a freelance writer from Virginia.

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