IT is crucial to battling C. diff bacteria, says survey

HAI monitoring technology use is lacking

By Mike Miliard
10:52 AM

While efforts to stop the spread of the intestinal bacteria Clostridium difficile are on the rise, they're largely ineffectual, according to a new survey, which calls for better use of monitoring technologies.

The poll of infection preventionists, conducted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, finds that 70 percent of them have adopted additional interventions in their healthcare facilities to address C. difficile infection, or CDI, in the past three years, but just 42 percent have seen a decline in their healthcare facility-associated CDI rates during that time period.

Rates of CDI, a healthcare-associated infection that kills 14,000 Americans annually, have climbed to all-time highs in recent years, the survey shows, but few facilities (just 21 percent) have added more infection prevention staff to address the problem.

“We are encouraged that many institutions have adopted stronger measures to prevent CDI, but as our survey indicates, more needs to be done to reduce the spread of this infection,” said Jennie Mayfield, APIC president-elect and clinical epidemiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. “We are concerned that staffing levels are not adequate to address the scope of the problem.”

The survey pointed to big gaps between cleaning efforts and monitoring. More than nine in 10 respondents (92 percent) have increased the emphasis on environmental cleaning and equipment decontamination practices since March 2010, but 64 percent said they simply rely on observation, rather than on more accurate and reliable monitoring technologies to assess cleaning effectiveness.

“Because C. difficile spores can survive in the environment for many months, environmental cleaning and disinfection are critical to prevent the transmission of CDI,” said Mayfield. “Environmental Services must take the lead in developing aggressive programs to monitor cleaning practices and then ensure that the results are shared with front-line staff. Without that buy-in, practices are unlikely to improve."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths related to CDI increased 400 percent between 2000 and 2007, due in part to a stronger germ strain. CDI is estimated to add at least $1 billion annually to U.S. healthcare costs.

"Working together we will identify knowledge gaps and research needs so that we can chart the steps toward stopping transmission of this infection," said Katrina Crist, APIC CEO.

[See also: VA hospital uses UV light to reduce HAI]

[See also: HHS tackles stubborn HAIs with updated plan]