Antibiotic exposure can predict C. diff infections

A new study examines the role of specific antibiotics in the development of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections, a drug-resistant, bacterial "superbug" that now rivals Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus as the most common and severe infection resistant to antibiotics.

A team of researchers from Loyola University Health System Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and the Hines VA Medical Hospital examined 143 cases of patients who had C. diff infections between 2005 and 2007. Seventy-two percent of those patients were infected with a strain that was highly resistant to fluoroquinolones and macrolides. They determined that exposure to antibiotics played a direct role in the development of C. diff infections. 

"This discovery takes us one step closer to preventing C. diff and supports targeting specific antibiotics for antibiotic stewardship monitoring programs in the setting of high infection rates due to specific strains of C. diff," Stuart Johnson, M.D., the study's lead author, said in a study announcement.

The exposure to antibiotics is the most important risk factor for the infections, he said. The other factor is that overuse of specific antibiotics may increase the chance of infection, according to Johnson. 

C. diff is among the most difficult disorders to treat and its increased rates of infection in U.S. hospitals mean longer stays for patients and higher costs for patient care.

Antibiotic stewardship programs have shown success at reducing rates of drug-resistant infections. A stewardship program at the University of California-Davis Children's Hospital managed to cut rates of C. diff infections in half between 2011 and 2014.

However, a 2015 report showed that many U.S. healthcare systems have been slow and ineffective in their responses to the infections.

To learn more:
- here's the study announcement
- read the study abstract