Hospitals and researchers redouble efforts to fight C. diff

Two New Jersey healthcare facilities and a team of researchers at the University of Michigan announced new initiatives this week aimed at fighting the drug-resistant "superbug" Clostridium difficile (C diff).

Ridgewoood's Valley Hospital and Teaneck's Holy Name Medical Center are collaborating and pooling their resources to fight C. diff infections, according to the announcement

"C. difficile is public enemy No. 1 and it is clear that defeating it will take a cooperative, multi-institutional and multidisciplinary approach, since the infection can be picked up at any point in a patient's care and can be transmitted from institution to institution," said Valley Hospital's Neil Gaffin, M.D., an infectious diseases specialist. "No one is going to get anywhere without working together."

The hospitals plan to share best practices, including restricting the use of antibiotics, infection control practices and procedures, and diagnosis and treatment protocols. They also will work with local nursing homes to try to limit the spread of C.diff throughout those facilities. 

Meanwhile, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan announced a $9.2 million initiative to fight C. diff in the nation's hospitals and nursing homes. The team is headed by Vincent Young, M.D., Ph.D., who said the new program "should help us lay the groundwork for both short- and long-term solutions to the C. difficile crisis, by understanding what puts patients at risk for C. difficile infection, and how we can best protect and cure them."

C. diff, which typically presents in patients as a hospital-acquired infection, is more than just a nuisance. It is one of the deadliest and most expensive challenges currently facing the healthcare profession. A 2015 study found that C. diff infections raise each patient's care costs by 40 percent--an average of  $7,285--and increase the length of their stay by 55 percent.

The CDC said that in 2011 "almost half a million infections in the United States in 2011, and 29,000 died within 30 days of the initial diagnosis."

Overprescription and misuse of antibiotics are largely to blame for the C. diff epidemic. The organism takes advantage of the lack of healthy gut bacteria to grow unchecked in patients' digestive tracts. In the elderly and other patients with weakened immune systems, the infection can quickly turn lethal. 

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the research announcement
- browse the CDC's C. diff information page