Airborne Spread of Clostridium Difficile
C.Diff is one of the most pervasive and deadly pathogens of interest in hospitals today. It is both incredibly resilient and infectious. If contracted, patients must undergo involved care which often includes powerful antibiotics that come with their own detrimental effects to the patient.
Thus, hospitals have taken a wide range of strategic infection protocol steps to curb the spread of the disease, including HVAC systems with germicidal UVC light systems and rooms with negative air pressure for isolation of patients. With an infection prevention protocol put in place, it is important to deduce how and why these pathogens proliferate.
Thanks to a study in BioMed Central, it is clear that while C.Diff spores are mainly present on touch surfaces, there is evidence of these spores traveling through the air and infecting a wider range of surfaces than previously thought.
The study in question approached air particles as a potential transmission vector for C.Diff. This type of spread is important because while C.Diff is known to be present in many places, its ability to spread to a multitude of touch surfaces was mainly thought to be caused by either direct contact of bioburden, or the transfer from hands to other touch surfaces.
With the presence of C.Diff in the air, it stands to reason that these spores can be spread, merely by shoes and other air current causing objects.
The study took cultures across multiple days in 2006 and 2007, in a UK hospital focusing on orthopeadic arenas, housing elderly patients. On days where the presence of C.Diff were found, there was very little movement as each of the patients were confined to their beds.
The tests found “clear evidence of sporadic aerial dissemination of spores,” which the researchers believe “may help to explain why CDAD is so persistent within hospitals and difficult to eradicate.”
It is imperative that the medical community continues to research and better understand the lifecycle of pathogens of origin in our healthcare system. These diseases can cause enormous damage to our medical system and patient’s health.
With ever evolving clinical knowledge should come continuous changes to how we address these pathogens. C.Diff’s ability to spread by air shows a need to better address vectors upon which it can travel, as it being contained to a bathroom, or the floor, is not enough to prevent spread.
What causes C diff spores?
Clostridium difficile, more commonly known as C.Diff, is an antibiotic resistant fungal spore that is present in the colon of humans. When this spore is introduced to a human’s body either orally or through the blood, the ensuing infection can easily cause the patient to contract septicemia. C.Diff, as a hospital acquired infection, occurs frequently in both healthcare and long term care settings. It is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality amongst elderly patients. While it is an easily transmitted disease, most C.Diff infections occur in healthcare settings. It’s near ubiquity within these healthcare spaces has made it nearly impossible to eradicate, leaving patients and care providers at constant risk.
The severity of C.Diff infections and its symptoms range greatly, but if an elderly or immunocompromised patient contracts an infection, it can easily become fatal. The length of recovery is long, and since the antibiotics necessary to treat the illness are so powerful, they often leave the patient bed ridden for days, if not weeks.