Just three years ago at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology, researchers from the Mayo Clinic reported their findings regarding the increasing incidence of bacterial infections from Clostridium difficile in elderly and young patients in hospitals. This uptick in cases is attributed, at least in part, to more frequent use of antibiotics.
Most commonly referred to as C. diff, the bacterium causes infections in already debilitated and frail patients. Symptoms can be as mild as a case of diarrhea to serious and life-threatening colon inflammations. C. diff is the primary source of diarrhea in hospital patients and can be linked to as many as 14,000 deaths annually in the United States.
In the elderly, the risk of complications and deaths from C. diff also are higher. Another study involving over a million adults diagnosed with C. diff determined that those older than 65 had longer hospital stays, were likely to be transferred to a nursing home and also had an elevated mortality rate. In fact, simply being a senior citizen can be a risk factor for C.diff-related adverse outcomes.
The increasing prevalence of these infections has roots in greater use of antibiotics, which wipe out the “good bacteria” in the human gut and leave patients vulnerable to bacteria spread from health care worker’s hands and dirty surfaces.
Treatment for C. diff can ironically include antibiotic therapy with oral vancomycin or metronidazole. Recurrent and more severe cases may require a stool transplant in which fecal matter from donors replaces the dearth of healthy intestinal bacteria in the patient’s colon.
Health care facilities can decrease the rate of C. diff infections by:
— Restrict unnecessary antibiotic use
— Having employees wash their hands often with hot soapy water when outbreaks occur
— Don’t rely on hand sanitizers, which do not always negate the bacterium
— Insist that visitors and staff alike wear disposable gowns and gloves while in C. diff patients’ rooms
— Restrict C. diff patients to private rooms or only sharing rooms with other infected patients
— Use bleach to clean all surfaces
— Add probiotics to treatment regimen of antibiotic patients
If you suspect your worsened medical condition from C. diff infection was due to medical negligence, you may have a cause of action to initiate a claim.
Source: Science Daily, “C. diff infections becoming more common, severe in children and elderly,” Mallika Gupta, M.B.B.S., Larry Baddour, M.D., and Darrell Pardi, M.D., accessed Sep. 04, 2015