Penn Researchers Find Alarming Rise in Drug-Resistant Infection

August 15th, 2017 by Wapner Newman

PA Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine recently released findings of a study that found a 200 percent increase in recurrent Clostridium difficile infections, between 2001 and 2012. Known familiarly as C. diff, the bacteria that causes intestinal illness kills at least 29,000 people per year.

Doctors treat C. diff with antibiotics, with the intent of preventing the bacteria from multiplying. It may take one or two courses of antibiotics to treat a patient, and if three closely spaced courses of antibiotics don’t kill the bacteria, that’s when C. diff infection is considered recurrent. Even patients who do recover after a single round of antibiotics may experience a relapse.

Symptoms of Infection

A C. diff infection may cause watery diarrhea, three or more times a day, for two days, along with abdominal cramping and tenderness. A severe infection can cause diarrhea 10 to 15 times a day, which in turn may cause weight loss and dehydration. Rapid heart rate, fever, and kidney failure are also symptoms of severe infection.

When the illness does not respond to medication and bacteria continue to multiply, it can lead to a ruptured or enlarged colon or perforated bowel, both of which are potentially deadly complications.

Causes of Infection

The intestines contain hundreds of bacteria that help fight infection; about 10 percent of the population also carries the C. diff bacteria, without experiencing any illness. C. diff is shed in fecal matter, and it can survive outside the body for months. People exposed to the bacteria can become ill.

The infection most often occurs in healthcare facilities and long-term residential facilities for the elderly, for several reasons:

  • When a person takes antibiotics, as many hospital patients do, the medicine kills off healthy bacteria that keep diff in check, allowing C. diff to multiply.
  • Hospital linens, bathrooms, surfaces, and devices may be contaminated with the bacteria.
  • People with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to illness.
  • Improper hand-washing can cause the spread of diff to other healthcare workers, and to patients.

Preventing Illness

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds healthcare providers that alcohol does not kill C. diff bacteria, so workers must use soap and water – not hand sanitizer – to clean their hands. When treating a patient with an infection, wearing gloves is always a necessity, even while entering or leaving the room, and workers should thoroughly wash hands after removing gloves.

The CDC also says healthcare facilities should have standards for cleaning and sterilizing all areas and equipment and use disinfectants containing a sporicide in areas where C. diff transmission has occurred.

Most people naturally assume that a healthcare facility is one of the cleanest environments, but when a facility lacks a proper infection-control policy or is too short-staffed to cover all necessary tasks, cleaning and sanitation may be inadequate.

If you have any questions about this topic or believe that unsanitary conditions in a health care facility caused your C. diff infection, the attorneys at Wapner Newman can help. For almost 40 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. We encourage you to contact us today by calling 1-800-LAW-6600 or filling out a free case evaluation form.