Hospital beds' antibiotic history can put future patients at risk for C. diff

When a patient in a hospital bed receives antibiotics, it puts the beds' next occupant at an increased risk of a Clostridium difficile infection, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

This means "antibiotics can directly affect risk for [C. diff infection] in patients who do not themselves receive antibiotics," according to the study authors.

To examine this trend, researchers looked at patients in four New York City-area hospitals who were admitted from 2010 to 2015. They had to spend more than 48 hours in their hospital bed, and the previous patient had to spend at least 24 hours in the bed no more than week prior to the second patient's admittance.

Using data from a computerized clinician order entry system, researchers determined if the first patient received antibiotics or not.

Out of 100,615 pairs of patients who occupied a given hospital bed sequentially, the second patient developed a C. diff infection in 576 pairs.

Overall, the risk of a C. diff infection in the second patient was 0.72 percent when the first patient received antibiotics and just 0.43 percent when the first patient did not receive antibiotics.

"This study provides evidence that there is a heard effect with antibiotics. In other words, antibiotics have the potential to affect the health of people who don't themselves receive antibiotics," Daniel Freedberg, MD, an author of the study, told Health Day.

As for why the C. diff risk does increase, the researchers suggested further study. However, they posit that if patients are colonized with C. diff, antibiotics can promote the bacteria proliferation and the number of spores shed into the environment.

One physician not affiliated with the study suggested to Health Day that further cleaning of hospital beds could be necessary. "This underscores the idea that hospitals are not being sanitized enough or they can't be sanitized enough," said Marc Siegel, MD, a professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. "There is an increased need for increased sterilization procedures between patients."

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