Nursing assistants are more vulnerable to Clostridium difficile (C. diff) contamination on their hands than other healthcare workers, according to a new study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
Researchers, led by Caroline Landelle, Ph.D., examined caregivers' hands after contact with patients with C. diff infections. They found that even when clinicians take precautions like wearing disposable gowns with full-length gloves and sleeves, about 25 percent of healthcare workers had C. diff spores on their hands after providing routine care to the patients. The likelihood of contamination increased in cases of high-risk contact like changing bed linen or digital rectal exams.
"In the exposed group, HCWs [healthcare workers] having contaminated hands had performed a significantly higher number of contacts as well as high-risk contacts than did those with noncontaminated hands," the researchers wrote. "Duration of high-risk contact was positively associated with hand contamination. To our knowledge, this is the first time that duration of contact has been reported as a risk factor for hand contamination."
The research team observed hand contamination in 42 percent of nursing assistants, compared to 23 percent of physicians and 19 percent of nurses. Researchers attributed the higher levels due to the fact nursing assistants had a greater amount of high-risk contact.
"This is the first known study focusing on the carriage of viable C. difficile spores on healthcare workers' hands," Landelle told McKnight's. "Because C. difficile spores are so resistant and persistent to disinfection, glove use is not an absolute barrier against the contamination of healthcare workers' hands."
Landelle also emphasized the need to follow proper hand-washing protocols to safeguard against infections, according to the article.
A May 2013 study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that targeted screening of patients with three risk factors (recent hospitalization, chronic dialysis and corticosteroid use) could help identify asymptomatic C. diff carriers, FierceHealthcare previously reported.