6 Reasons Why C. diff is a Menace

by Erica Mitchell | November 21 2019 | Bacteria, Hospitals, HAIs | 0 Comments

C._diff_6_reasons-01.jpgThere are 6 reasons why Clostridium difficile is such a menace. Each one of these aspects makes C. diff infections, or CDIs, a force to be reckoned with. All six make it one of the greatest threats in hospital infection control.

  1. RESISTANT

    Antibiotics | Naturally resistant due to many mobile genetic elements (over 10% of its genome) that make it adapt (resist) antibiotics quickly and efficiently.

    Antibodies | Creates a pseudomembrane along the inner lining of the intestines that prevents the immune system’s antibodies (and certain antibiotics) from reaching it.

    Environment | It releases spore when under environmental stress which makes it survive intense heat, dryness, and chemicals (including alcohol-based cleaners).

  2. VIRULENT

    Toxins | Releases 2 strong toxins as it metabolizes that are highly damaging to the epithelial tissue in the intestine.

    Genome | The many mobile genetic units also give the pathogen more virulence, leading to more dangerous strains, such as the hypervirulent North American strain,  BI/NAP1/027.

  3. PERSISTENT

    Spores | Creates spores while still in the host which are then shed; these spores can withstand extreme heat, dryness, chemicals and radiation. They can survive on surfaces for up to 5 months.

    Colonies | Can colonize host without symptoms that can still infect others by shedding spores. These symptom-free (asymptomatic) hosts shed spores at the same rate as symptomatic patients.

    Recurrent | Can stay in host’s body and causes recurrent infections in 1:5 patients. These recurrent infections are not more virulent but, can cause added stress to a patient already struggling with a chronic condition or to an elderly patient.

    Pervasive | It is found in all healthcare settings and around the world. The CDC lists it as an "urgent threat".  A recently published literature review of over 200 CDI studies from around the world identifies it as a "global burden".

  4. OPPORTUNISTIC

    Toxins | Releases 2 strong toxins as it metabolizes that are highly damaging to the epithelial tissue in the intestine.

    Genome | The many mobile genetic units also give the pathogen more virulence, leading to more dangerous strains, such as the hypervirulent North American strain,  BI/NAP1/027.

  5. LETHAL

    Deaths | Of the half a million cases of CDI in the United States, 29,000 resulted in death; 80% of CDI deaths are 65+.

    Mortality | 6.9% mortality rate at 30 days post diagnosis; 16.7% mortality rate at 1 year post diagnosis.

  6. EXPENSIVE

    Costs | The average CDI adds $6-9,000 to hospital charges per infection, with some infections adding up to $30,000. This costs $1.6 billion nationally back in 2008. (Costs include treatment, medications and extended length of stay.)

    Penalties | CMS reporting of C. difficile infections began in September 2015, which lead to better infection tracking nation-wide. However, it also result in lost reimbursements to hospitals with too many CDIs.


Check back in to the blog next week, as we conclude of series C. diff with how to break the cycle of infection and calm that perfect storm.  

Breaking the C. diff Cycle