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C. diff on the Rise Outside the Hospital

Risk Factors for C. diff Include Antibiotic Use and Being Over Age 65

C. diff Risk Factors continued...

Glenn Songer, PhD, of Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ames, is concerned that food may be the source of many unexplained infections.

"We found contamination in 40% of beef, pork, and turkey products we tested. And the C. diff isolates [strains] were the same isolates that cause disease in humans. We have just not yet proven a flow [of C. diff disease] from animals to humans," he says.

Still, the vast majority of cases are spread from human to human. Asked what he does to ensure the food he brings to his table is safe, Singer concedes, "I just go ahead and eat what I want."

That said, he and others are continuing to study farm animals and the food supply and culture samples of retail meats for C. diff.

Patient-to-Doctor Spread of C. diff

Researchers at the meeting reported that patients who have recently recovered from community-acquired C. diff may spread it to doctors and nurses who see them for follow-up visits.

Forty-five percent of gloves worn by health care workers who touched the skin of 35 such patients tested positive for C. diff spores, says Lucy Jury, RN, MSN, a nurse researcher at Louis Stokes Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cleveland.

In a separate study, Jury and colleagues found that two simple questions -- asking whether a patient has had a C. diff infection and/or has been on broad-spectrum antibiotics within the past three months -- can identify the majority of so-called carriers of C. diff. Carriers don't have symptoms but are shedding spores and can spread the disease.

In the study of 120 nursing patients followed for five months, the two questions correctly identified about three-fourths of carriers.

While nearly one-fourth of cases were missed, "it's the best we have," Jury tells WebMD.

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