A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reveals that there is a consistent increase in the number of hard-to-treat infections and this may be linked to antibiotics.
Study researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 38 million hospital patients. They discovered that multiply recurrent Clostridium difficile infections have increased by nearly 200% between 2001 and 2012 while easy to treat C.diff infections have increased by 40% during the same time period.
C.diff bacteria can cause very serious inflammation, cramping, and diarrhea. The CDC estimates that nearly 500,000 Americans get sick because of this bacteria and it also accounts for nearly 29,000 deaths.
Researchers believe that this dramatic increase may be due to antibiotics. Most patients who develop a C.diff infection are prescribed these drugs. While antibiotics are effective in killing off the bacteria, they also end up destroying protective intestinal bacteria. This enables C. diff bacteria to further take hold and multiply. If preventive measures are not taken, especially if there are sanitation issues in a hospital, C. diff can spread quite rapidly from one patient to the next either through hospital staff or equipment.
The study also demonstrates that antibiotic treatments are no longer reliable for treating C.diff infections. Many patients end up with persistent or recurring diarrhea and other symptoms even after they have completed three or more courses of antibiotics.
This is especially true for fluoroquinolones. Overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin target a wide variety of bacteria but in doing so, they also send up killing off the body’s good bacteria compared to drugs that have a narrow mode of action such as penicillin. Studies have shown that hospitals that cut back on overusing these antibiotics had drops up to nearly 80% in the prevalence of these infections.
The following measures are recommended if you or a family member is in the hospital:
1. Ask your doctor why an antibiotic is being prescribed. According to research by the CDC, nearly one-third of all prescribed antibiotics are not really needed or are the wrong type.
2. Always insist that both you and the healthcare staff wash their hands and the staff wears gloves. You should wash your own hands regularly and you should ask anyone who walks into your room to do the same. Make sure that all healthcare providers put on new gloves before they conduct any physical exams. Keep in mind that alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not destroy C.diff so washing hands with soap and water is a must.
3. If you are in the hospital, you can use bleach wipes. C. diff bacteria, as well as other bacteria, can survive on surfaces such as bed rails, door knobs and television remotes for weeks. It is advisable that you disinfect these items with bleach wipes to minimize the risk of infection.