Antibiotics, infection and patients who share hospital beds

Researchers have found that infections from Clostridium difficile (CDI), a bacterium that causes diarrhea and serious intestinal conditions such as colitis, can pass from patient to patient after sharing the same hospital bed.

A team of researchers led by Daniel E. Freedberg, MD, MS, set out to assess whether giving antibiotics to patients in a specific hospital bed will have an effect on CDI rates in patients who use the bed next. To control the spread of CDI, researchers conducted a study of patients hospitalized in one of four facilities between 2010 and 2014.

The study contained 100,615 pairs of patients who shared a hospital bed after one another. Of the participants, 576 pairs contracted CDI, which is a rate of 0.57 percent. Patients who had received antibiotics were much more likely to pass CDI to the patients using the bed after them. This pattern remained unchanged by other factors that were also known to influence the risk of CDI.

“These data imply that patient-to-patient transmission of  C difficile or other bacteria that mediate susceptibility to CDI takes place in the non-outbreak setting and in the face of a multifaceted effort seeking to prevent health care–associated CDI,” wrote Freedberg and colleagues. “More generally, these data support the hypothesis that antibiotics given to one patient may alter the local microenvironment to influence a different patient’s risk for CDI.”