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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

The formidable challenge of C. diff: Top experts convening in Baltimore to look for new approaches to thwart a nasty bug

Dramatic progress in reducing several major health care associated infections (HAIs) in recent years has been offset by the unrelenting rise of Clostridium difficile, the spore-forming pathogen that can cling steadfast to hands even after washing. While, there hopeful signs that hospital collaborative programs and antibiotic stewardship efforts may yet bring this nasty bug to bay, currently some 14,000 patients die annually of C. diff infection in the United States.

Indeed, C diff infection deaths increased 400% from 2000 to 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, some $1 billion in medical costs are exacted annually by the C. diff epidemic, which is being driven by the emergence of the highly virulent North American pulsed-field gel electrophoresis type 1 (NAP1) strain in the year 2000. NAP1, which debuted with a series of deadly hospital outbreaks, has been described as having everything but a sunny disposition: enhanced spore formation, a 20-fold increase in toxins, resistance to fluoroquinolones, lower infectious dose, and ability to survive indefinitely in the environment.

To devise strategies to meet the formidable challenges of C. diff, leading national experts will gather for a two-day meeting March 11-12 in Baltimore. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology is convening an Educational and Consensus Conference that will feature national C. diff experts like Dale Gerding, MD, of the VA Chicago Health Care System; and Cliff McDonald, MD, the CDC’s top expert on C. diff infection prevention.

Topics to be covered at the APIC meeting include:

•Identification of current and future challenges

•Special care settings (long-term care, long-term acute care, rehabilitation)

•Antimicrobial stewardship

•Research needs

•Treatment therapies

•Policy and regulatory issues