Protocols enacted by hospital environmental services (EVS) staff and healthcare workers to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have also been effective against another infectious disease—Clostridium. difficile (C. diff).
A study in the American Journal of Infection Control found that the incidence of C. diff substantially decreased in 2020 compared to the previous three years due to steps taken to reduce COVID-19 infection, specifically greater attention to hand hygiene, the use of masks, and the proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Researchers with Sant’Andrea University Hospital of Rome in Italy compared data on people discharged from the hospital from March 1 to June 30, 2020, to discharge data from 2017, 2018, and 2019. While the investigators found that there was no statistically significant difference in C. diff incidence in 2017, 2018, and 2019, the 2020 results proved to be quite different.
In 2017, among 422 discharged patients, 39 were found to have C. diff. In 2018, 25 patients from 348 discharged had C. diff and in 2019, 24 patients from 364 discharged had C. diff.
In comparison, only 11 patients among 333 discharged from wards without COVID-19 patients in 2020 had C. diff and seven patients from 150 patients discharged from COVID-19 wards had C. diff.
Investigators could not determine which of the pandemic protocols played the biggest role in slowing C. diff spread, but they noted that previous studies have shown that hand hygiene alone wasn’t enough.
Interestingly, COVID-19 wards showed a higher incidence of C. diff, which suggests coronavirus infection as a possible risk factor for C. diff.
C. diff is the most common pathogen among healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs). Learn cleaning best practices to prevent HAIs in health care facilities.