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Watch who you shake hands with - A bad germ gets worse (Health)

posted by bibleprobe1(R), 05.04.2008
(edited by bibleprobe1 on 05.15.2008)


By JoNel Aleccia
Health writer
updated 8:22 a.m. ET, Fri., May. 2, 2008

Amy Warren had never heard of the germ that made her so miserable.

In January 2005, weeks after giving birth to her daughter, the Ohio mother of two knew only that she was in pain, suffering cramping so severe she felt like she was still in labor. Then came the diarrhea, uncontrollable bouts up to 50 times a day, which left Warren weak and raw and stranded in her Maineville home.

examples of MRSA infections

"I was so sick; I thought I had colon cancer and was dying," Warren recalled.

Three tests failed to detect the source of her intestinal trouble. A fourth, however, confirmed Warren as part of a toxic trend: She was among growing numbers of people sickened by an especially virulent form of the bacterial infection Clostridium difficile, known as C. diff.

Doctors told Warren shed contracted the NAP1 type of the bacteria, a mutated version that produces roughly 20 times the toxins responsible for illnesses ranging from simple diarrhea to blood poisoning and death.

Its like a science fiction disease, said Warren, who struggled for six months through three relapses before controlling the infection. Thats what scared me. People die from this.

C. diff has long been a common, usually benign bug associated with simple, easily treated diarrhea in older patients in hospitals and nursing homes. About 3 percent of healthy adults harbor the bacteria with no problem. But overuse of antibiotics has allowed the germ to develop resistance in recent years, doctors said, creating the toxic new type that stumps traditional treatment.

"This is the one we're scared of," said Dr. Brian Koll, chief of infection control at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

C. diff produces anaerobic spores transmitted through feces that are able to survive for months on most surfaces. People are infected when they ingest the bacteria, typically by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their mouths, or by eating contaminated food.

Overall infections caused by C. diff more than doubled between 2000 and 2005, according to the latest government figures. In 2005, the year of Warrens illness, 301,200 cases of C. difficile-associated disease (CDAD) were logged in discharge records kept by the nations hospitals. Some 28,600 people who had the infection died.

That's only hospitals, however. Counting nursing homes and other care centers, the number of cases nationally is likely closer to 500,000, experts estimate.

Contaminated health care settings remain the main source of C. diff infections, primarily because they treat so many people with serious diarrheal illness. The NAP1 strain has been found in other sites and populations in recent years, infecting young adults and pregnant women with no history of antibiotic use, according to federal sources.

Despite the concern, scientists don't know how many people contract NAP1 infections, or how many die from them. C. diff infection is not a reportable condition in most states, although a rare pilot project that mandated reporting in Ohio in 2006 found more than 14,000 cases in hospitals and nursing homes that year, according to the state health department.

Mutant strain detected in 38 states
What is clear is that the most toxic strain is taking hold, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In February 2007, 23 states told the CDC they'd seen cases of the NAP1 strain; by November, that number had grown to 38. Officials in the remaining states and territories contacted by said they hadn't detected the virulent bug, but most also said they don't look for it.

Better data about the scope of the C. diff problem may be available by this fall, when the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC) presents the results of a prevalence study being conducted this month.

Last year, APIC was among the first agencies to note that rates of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, were about 10 times previous estimates. The so-called superbug claimed headlines last year when researchers linked it to more than 94,000 infections and nearly 19,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2005.

Finish reading this at MSNBC: here

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  • Watch who you shake hands with - A bad germ gets worse - bibleprobe1(R), 05.04.2008
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