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Spring Is High Season for C. difficile, Especially in Northeast

AUSTIN, TX – If your hospital is like most, rates of infection with the superbug Clostridium difficile have been elevated over the last few months, compared to other seasons – especially if the facility is located in the Northeast.

That’s according to a new study published recently in the American Journal of Infection Control, which found that over the last decade C. difficile infection rates were highest in the Northeast region of the country and in the spring season for adults but different for children.

To determine that, researchers from the University of Texas College of Pharmacy retrospectively analyzed 2.3 million cases of C. difficile infection (CDI) from 2001-10 and found the highest incidence in the Northeast (8.0 CDI discharges/1000 total discharges), followed by the Midwest (6.4/1000), South (5.0/1000), and the West (4.8/1000).

For adults, infection was most common in the spring (6.2 CDI discharges/1000 total discharges), followed by winter (5.9/1000), summer (5.9/1000) and fall (5.6/1000), the authors note, adding that pediatric CDI tends to be highest in winter and occurs most commonly in the West.

Mortality from the deadly superbug was highest in the Midwest (7.3%), however, and among older adults (9%).

"The peak incidence in the spring could be attributed to increased utilization of antibiotics in winter months," the authors suggest. "Prior studies have found a one to two month lag time between antibiotic exposure and the development of CDI."

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, C. difficile has become the most common microbial cause of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals and costs up to $4.8 billion each year in excess healthcare costs for acute care facilities alone.

The infection caused almost half a million infections in 2011, with at least one recurrence in 83,000 of those patients, according to the CDC. Within 30 days of their initial diagnosis, 29,000 U.S. patients died that year, public health officials add.