Stopping C. diff may be more a matter of antibiotic restriction than infection control: study

“Restricting the use of antibiotics may be more effective in reducing the number people who fall ill with Clostridium difficile [C. diff] than lowering transmission rates through infection control measures,” according to David W. Eyre, B.M., B.Ch., co-author of a newly published study of the infection.

C. diff traditionally been thought to be transmitted within hospitals from patients with the infection, but researchers in the United Kingdom (U.K.), studying all C. diff cases in Oxfordshire from 2008 to 2011, found that less than 20 percent of C. diff cases were likely to have been caught from other hospital cases of the infection. Their article in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that new ways are needed to fight the infection and that better use of antibiotics could be key.

The total number of cases of C. diff, whether acquired from other sick patients in hospitals or acquired elsewhere, fell over the three-year period studied, the researchers found, suggesting that stringent infection control measures in hospitals were not the most significant factor in curbing the infection.

“We must be clear; good infection control measures have helped minimize transmission rates in hospitals,” says Tim E. A. Peto, Dr.Phil, study author and professor of infectious diseases at the University of Oxford. “However, what our study has shown is the vast majority of cases were not caught from other hospital cases, and the total number of cases has fallen, so other factors, in addition to hospital infection control, must be at work.”

The study was supported by the U.K.’s National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council. Researchers came from the University of Leeds, the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and Oxford University.

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