A new study suggests that if the person who had the hospital bed before you had antibiotics, you could be in danger of developing Clostridium difficile, an infection via a dangerous germ. 

Clostridium difficile can cause life threatening diarrhea for patients who are already unwell, and a new study shows that it isn’t just patients taking antibiotics who are at risk for developing it.

According to new research some of the spores of the germs can linger, which can then be transferred to the next patient who uses the same hospital bed where the previous patient was affected.

This is partially due to hospitals not taking proper sanitation measures between patients.

This phenomenon is particularly documented in US hospitals, though it may very well also persist in hospitals outside of the country.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that Clostridium difficile kills 29,000  people per year in the US, with mostly older adults becoming victim to the germ.

Lead researcher Dr. Daniel Freedberg, a gastroenterologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, stated of the problem:

“Antibiotics encourage the spread of C. difficile from patients who asymptomatically carry C. difficile to patients who are C. difficile-free, even if the C. difficile-free patients do not receive any antibiotics.”

During the research, it was found that 576 people who took up a bed in which someone received antibiotics went on to develop Clostridium difficile. 

The average incubation time for the second patient to become infected with the germ was two to 14 days.

According to the research, those who stayed in a bed after a patient who received antibiotics had a chance of 0.72% of developing the germ, while those who took up a bed where the patient did not have antibiotics had a 0.43% chance of becoming infected.

However, this study does not necessarily prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship of the antibiotics to the germ spreading. This is due to the small sample size used in the study.

More research is needed to come to a proper conclusion, however it is apparent that antibiotics need to be used much more judiciously.

Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City stated of the study results:

“I don’t find this surprising. We knew that antibiotic use increases the risk of C. difficile.”


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