Targeted screening can reduce spread of C. diff infection

Testing patients with three risk factors when they're admitted could help hospitals identify asymptomatic C. difficile carriers, according to a new study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Researchers studying 320 patients showing no symptoms of C. difficile at admission to a tertiary care hospital in Minnesota between March 1 and April 30, 2009, found nearly 1 of 10 tested positive for C. diff.

Most study participants had one or more of the three independent risk factors--recent hospitalization, chronic dialysis and corticosteroid use. Screening patients with those risk factors would have identified 74 percent of C. diff carriers, the research found.

Recent hospitalization was the most prevalent risk factor. Targeting patients with that risk factor alone would have identified 65 percent of C. diff carriers, according to the study. Such findings suggest hospitals remain an important source of acquiring C. diff.

And although identifying asymptomatic C. diff carriers is not currently recommended, researchers note these asymptomatic carriers could be major transmitters of infections.

"While more research needs to be conducted on the transmission of C. difficile infection from colonized patients, this study may help institutions with persistently high rates of transmission develop an expanded strategy for targeted C. difficile surveillance," Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology President Patti Grant, RN, BSN, MS, CIC, said this week in a statement.

"The study does not indicate necessity for all healthcare facility implementation, yet provides a step-wise progressive approach to help impede C. difficile activity when considering the overall epidemiologic impact of transmission," Grant noted.

Now hospitals can add targeted screening to their arsenal for fighting C. diff. Other infection-prevention methods include copper surfaces in intensive care unit hospital rooms and dedicated, educated disinfecting teams.

For more:
- here's the study
- read the research announcement