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New Data Reveals High Death Rates From Clostridium Difficile (C. diff)

Mar 8, 2012, 11:35 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

A new Vital Signs report issued March 6 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows rates of infection with Clostridium difficile (C. diff) are at historic highs and must be curtailed. C. diff can cause cramps, severe diarrhea and, in some cases, death.

Also on March 6, Extending the Cure—a project funded by the Pioneer Portfolio that studies antibiotic resistance—released a new analysis showing high C. diff death rates in parts of New England. In fact, the Extending the Cure analysis shows that as of 2007 Rhode Island, Maine, and Connecticut had the highest death rates for C. diff in the nation.

These top three states had death rates that were more than double the national average of 2.15 deaths per 100,000 people.  The trend is visualized using the interactive mapping platform of ResistanceMap, Extending the Cure’s online tool that tracks antibiotic use and drug resistance in North America and in Europe.

At the same time, the mapshows that most Southern and Western states had death rates from C. diff that were below the national average. For example, Georgia, Colorado, and Idaho reported less than one death per 100,000 people from these infections in 2007. “The geographical variation points to the need for additional research to better understand the epidemiology of C. diff infections and highlight the most effective ways of preventing their spread,” says Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of Extending the Cure, the D.C-based research project funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio.

While C. diff has long been linked to hospitals, the CDC report finds that patients can acquire the infection in all medical settings, including nursing homes and outpatient clinics. Those most at risk are patients who take antibiotics, which can wipe out the good bacteria living in the gut, allowing C. diff to thrive.

C. diff infections can be reduced by judicious use of antibiotics, according to the CDC, which notes that about 50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed are not necessary. Reducing unnecessary antibiotic use will not only help prevent C. diff infections, but also curtail the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Addressing the rising rates of C. diff infections will require a multifaceted approach.  In addition to promoting antibiotic stewardship, health officials must work towards better infection control and early diagnosis at hospitals and other facilities where C. diff and other health care-associated infections can spread from patient to patient or from one facility to the next.

 In addition, policymakers, researchers, and others can use visualizations, like the map from Extending the Cure, to identify regions of the country with the most serious problems and look for targeted solutions to the rising tide of C. diff and other disease-causing bacterial pathogens.

Check out the new data and let us know what you think: Do you have a story to tell about a solution to the problem with C. diff?

Follow @ExtendgtheCure on Twitter to track coverage of this study.

Shorter Antibiotic Regimens Might Counter Antibiotic Resistance

Jan 12, 2012, 9:05 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Antibiotics on the shelf today are increasingly losing their potency against resistant microbes or “superbugs” like the potentially lethal methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

Extending the Cure researchers published an analysis this week that questions the conventional wisdom regarding antibiotic dosing practices and suggests rethinking the guidelines to minimize the growing public health crisis posed by antibiotic resistance. Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of Extending the Cure, and his colleagues, used mathematical models to study antibiotic treatment guidelines, the regimens physicians follow for the standard dose and duration of antibiotic treatment for common infections.

While antibiotic dosing regimens have typically been designed to cure bacterial infections, rarely have these guidelines taken antibiotic resistance into account.  All antibiotic use contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance, and the new research suggests dosing guidelines could be optimized to both treat infections and limit the spread of resistant microbes. The analysis, published January 11 in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE, indicates that in many cases, a shorter regimen of antibiotic treatment could work just as well as a longer course yet still reduce the risk of resistance.

Dosing strategies for antibiotics are not set in stone.  For example, many physicians have switched from the traditional 10-day course of antibiotics and now effectively prescribe a three-day regimen to treat otitis media, or middle ear infections. In some cases, the authors argue, shorter dosing regimens like this one could limit the selection pressure for resistant bacteria and thus reduce the threat of resistance.

Extending the Cure, a project of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, is working to change how we think about antibiotics, a resource that can be depleted with overuse. This study suggests that shorter treatment regimens, in some cases, may help us preserve the power of the antibiotics we still have left.

Let us know what you think:  Are there any risks to shortening current treatment regimens? Are there any other benefits? Leave a comment here or tweet at @ExtendgTheCure and @PioneerRWJF #SaveAbx to tell us what you think.

Why We Have to Start Cutting Back on Antibiotic Use

Nov 18, 2011, 1:51 AM

Up to one million antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily every year, often for colds and other viral infections that they can’t even cure.  This overuse is a serious public health threat because it significantly reduces antibiotics’ effectiveness to combat all sorts of infections, including life-threatening ones caused by microbes like MRSA and E. coli.

As part of a national effort to reduce improper use of antibiotics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its partners are promoting Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, a campaign to educate consumers and health care providers about appropriate antibiotic use in hospitals and throughout the community.

Pioneer grantee Extending the Cure (ETC), a partner in CDC’s campaign, also released new data this week on antibiotic use trends.  These findings are the focus of a guest blog post on CDC’s Safe Healthcare blog, where Ramanan Laxminarayan, ETC director, describes a pattern of high antibiotic consumption in the Southeastern United States, particularly in West Virginia and Kentucky.  USA Today ran a story about the new research on Wednesday.

Laxminarayan also authored an op-ed in the McClatchy Tribune, calling on public health officials to put in place strategies that address these worrisome trends, such as broader flu vaccination. The new research comes to us from ResistanceMap, an online mapping tool developed by ETC that illustrates the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. This new map provides a look at antibiotic use across the U.S. 

Also this week, ETC released a paper describing a new “Drug Resistance Index” that allows policymakers and hospitals to track changes in antibiotic effectiveness over time using a single measure.  The index, similar in concept to the consumer price index, appeared in Monday’s edition of the British Medical Journal Open.

Extending the Cure is working to change how we as a society think about antibiotics, encouraging us to think about these drugs as a shared resource—just like water, trees or oil reserves—that we rely on and should preserve so they maintain their effectiveness. 

Let us know what you think:  Do we, as a society, use antibiotics too often?  What strategies should we use to ensure a future with plenty of powerful antibiotics?  Leave a comment here or tweet @PioneerRWJF #SaveAbx and @CDDEP to tell us what you think.