Infections gained in hospitals and nursing homes led to more than double the number of U.S. deaths from stomach inflammation that causes vomiting and diarrhea, a report by U.S. health officials found.
Deaths from the condition increased to 17,000 in 2007 from about 7,000 in 1999, according to a study by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The germ Clostridium difficile was tied to 14,500 deaths, up from 2,700 in 1999. Most people infected by C. difficile first show symptoms in hospitals or health-care settings, the CDC said on its website. Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s Dificid, approved for sale in the U.S. In May, was the first drug cleared for the infection in 25 years.
“This isn’t going to be answered with one new treatment, though we’re happy to see it,” said Clifford McDonald, a study author and epidemiologist for the CDC, in a telephone interview. The findings were reported today at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.
The CDC is focusing on getting doctors to prescribe antibiotics more carefully, since C. difficile frequently colonizes patients after use, McDonald said. Doctors should also ask patients, even those coming in for other ailments, if they have diarrhea, and order appropriate tests if so.
“Even if you’re seeing someone with a broken leg, you need to ask,” McDonald said.
Those who have the ailment need to be isolated, and special cleaners need to be used on their rooms to eliminate the bacteria, which is resistant to most disinfectants, he said.
Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is marketing Dificid with Optimer, is also developing a drug for C. difficile-associated diarrhea. The treatment which is in the second of three phases of testing generally required for approval.
Over 80 percent of the deaths reported in the time period were people at least 65 years old, the study found. The CDC report also identified Norovirus, spread in contaminated food and water, as being the second-biggest contributor to deaths, with 800 a year.
“That doesn’t show evidence of an increase, but it’s at a baseline level that wasn’t previously appreciated,” McDonald said.