A way to reduce hospital-acquired infections

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Clostridium difficile. Image: © Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

Infections acquired in the hospital can be a dangerous and even deadly problem for patients, yet establishing effective ways to systematically minimize exposure to harmful pathogens is a persistent problem for medical institutions. In fact, a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that roughly half of all infection-related deaths in hospitals could be prevented with better infection-control protocols. It is particularly promising news then, that a new study released today by the Mayo Clinic finds that regular use of special disinfectant wipes on hospital surfaces can substantially reduce infections caused by Clostridium difficile (C. difficile).

C. difficile is a leading cause of hospital-acquired infections in the U.S., and can result in diarrhea, sepsis or even lead to death in vulnerable patients. Yet in this recent study, Mayo Clinic researchers found that the daily use of spore-killing bleach disinfectant wipes on commonly touched surfaces reduced C. difficile infections rates dramatically in two hospital units that house gastrointestinal and lung patients that had previously had high incidences of infection due to the pathogen. At the study’s onset, the two units averaged 61 and 106 cases of C. difficile infections per every 100,000 patient days.

Yet, by the end of the study, use of the disinfectant wipes—containing 0.55 percent sodium hypochlorite, which has been proven effective at killing C. difficile—reduced infection rates by one third. What’s more, though researchers set out to reduce time between infection cases to 20 days, by the end of the study, one unit had gone 137 days without a single infection.