Prevention efforts fail to stop C. diff infection

Even though healthcare facilities have ramped up efforts to prevent C. difficile infection, infection rates and deaths remain at historic highs, according to a new nationwide survey from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

In the survey, 70 percent of infection preventionists said their healthcare facilities have added infection-control interventions to stop the spread of C. difficile infection since March 2010. However, only 42 percent saw their healthcare-associated infection rates for C. difficile fall during that time, while 43 percent saw no decrease.

The survey follows October 2012 research from the Mayo Clinic that found C. difficile infections are becoming more common and severe among hospitalized children and elderly patients.

Despite climbing C. difficile infection rates, only 21 percent of survey respondents hired additional infection prevention staff.

Moreover, the survey revealed a discrepancy between cleaning efforts and monitoring: More than 90 percent of respondents increased their focus on environmental cleaning during the past three years. Yet 64 percent monitor room cleaning via observation instead of more accurate monitoring technologies; 14 percent don't monitor cleaning efforts.

"Because C. difficile spores can survive in the environment for many months, environmental cleaning and disinfection are critical to prevent the transmission of CDI," Jennie Mayfield, clinical epidemiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and APIC president-elect, said yesterday in a statement.

Mayfield called on  hospitals' environmental services departments to drive efforts to monitor cleaning practices and keep front-line staff informed.

Meanwhile, hospitals have been showing promising results in reducing other types of healthcare-associated infections, such as central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), which fell 41 percent between 2008 and 2011.

For more:
- here's the research announcement
- check out the survey (.pdf)