A NEW SURVEY has found that despite it being more common in hospitals than MRSA, Clostridium difficileinfection (CDI) is relatively unheard of amongst patients.
However, up to 30 per cent of patients diagnosed with the hospital acquired CDI die within 30 days of infection.
Clostridium difficile is a serious illness where the bacteria produce toxins that cause inflammation of the colon, diarrhoea and in some cases, death.
It is 2-4 times more common than MRSA but has a much lower level of awareness – meaning that people may not know the risk posed to them especially if they’re in hospitals or nursing homes or have a condition which may reduce their immune response.
A European Study indicates that approximately 1 in 10 cases of CDI cause-or contribute to- intensive care unit admission or death, or lead to surgery to remove part of the bowel, known as a colectomy.
While the HSE reports show that In Ireland, there were 1,696 new cases of C. difficile infection notified in 2010 - the most recent statistic available.
One thing that is different to MRSA is that alcohol gel does not protect against or stop the spread of cDiff which is particularly important as the research shows that people aren’t aware that alcohol gel is ineffective which puts them at risk.
C. difficile exists as active bacteria that can cause infection and also as dormant seed-like structures called “spores” which can live for months on hospital surfaces.
Transmitted from hands
It can be transmitted to patients from the environment or from the hands of contaminated healthcare workers.
Ipsos MRBI, on behalf of Astellas Ireland, conducted the research on cDiff among members of the general public in August 2013. The report found that 85 per cent of Irish people believe, incorrectly, that MRSA is the more common hospital infection when in fact Clostridium difficile is.
The proportion of CDI cases occurring or originating in nursing homes has increased significantly in recent years to 13 per cent.
In light of the research CEO Tadhg Daly of Nursing Homes Ireland said: “We are urging people to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after contact with patients, to help prevent C. difficile spores from spreading.”
Dr Margaret Hannon, microbiologist said the general public need to be aware of what Clostridium difficile is and the symptoms associated with this infection.
“To ensure to wash their hands with soap and water as this helps to prevent this infection from spreading. The World Health Organisation (WHO) refers to The Five Moments of Hand Hygiene an excellent resource that demonstrates the correct hand washing technique,” she said.
Hannon said the main challenge in the treatment of CDI is around recurrence. Around 25 per cent of patients treated with current C. difficile therapies may suffer a second infection, increasing the risk of developing further infections by 45-65 per cent.
She added that patients who experience a recurrence of the condition are at a higher risk for further recurrences, leading to a cycle of repeated infections.
Naomi Fitzgibbon, Cancer Information Services Manager at the Irish Cancer Society said:
Clostridium difficile affects the most vulnerable members in society, particularly patients who are being treated for cancer, as well as other groups whose immunity against infections may be compromised.
There is an inadequate level of awareness of CDI among the public, which has been confirmed through the IPSOS MRBI awareness survey.
We would urge patients who develop diarrhoea while in hospital to report this to a nurse or doctor or anyone with severe or prolonged diarrhoea, should consult his or her doctor.
The symptoms of Clostridium difficile range from mild, self-limiting diarrhoea, to severe, life-threatening bowel complications.
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