Reusable sharps containers may spread C. diff in hospitals

The rates of C. difficile  or  C. diff. infections were 15 percent higher in hospitals that use reusable sharps containers than in hospitals that use single-use disposable containers, according to a new study presented this weekend at the 42nd annual conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

Researchers analyzed data from 539 acute care hospitals across the U.S. that responded to a survey in 2013 about the type of sharps containers they used. The majority of hospitals (72 percent) used reusable sharps containers.

When analyzed in conjunction with Medicare data on the rates of C. diff infections, hospitals that used single-use sharps containers had significantly lower rates of C. diff infections, according to a presentation by Monika Pogorzelska-Maziarz, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Jefferson School of Nursing in Philadelphia.

"These findings, while they do not confirm a direct correlation between protocols for sharps disposal and risk of healthcare-associated infection, do raise important questions about the potential role that reusable sharps containers may play in pathogen transmission," Pogorzelska-Maziarz said in an announcement about the study, which was funded by BD Medical, a medical technology company.

While hospitals take steps to stop the spread of C. diff, one study found many fall short when it comes to antibiotic stewardship programs. The spread of drug-resistant superbugs, including C. diff, has also been linked to shortages of key antibiotics, according to one study, FierceHealthcare previously reported. 

To learn more:
- see the poster presentation of the study (.pdf)
- read the study announcement