Bleach disinfectant wipes reduce hospital-acquired C. difficile infection rates

Known as a “hospital superbug” because of its high antibacterial resistance, Clostridium difficile, C. difficile, is one of the most common bacterial pathogens that cause hospital-acquired infections in the country. It can cause diarrhea, colitis, and sepsis, any of which could prolong hospital stays or even cause death. Researchers found a way to reduce the acquisition of this infection and lessen the frequency of its appearance significantly.

According to a new study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, when hospital rooms were cleaned with bleach disinfectant wipes on a regular basis, the acquisition of C. difficile in patients was dramatically reduced. The findings were presented March 19 at a conference sponsored by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study involved consistent daily cleaning of high-touch surfaces with a spore-killing bleachdisinfectant wipe in units with high endemic rates of C. difficile infection. When the study began, “one unit’s infection frequency was 61 per 10,000 patient days. The other was higher, at 106 cases per 10,000 patient days.” The bleach wipes, which contained 0.55 percent sodium hypochlorite, were selected because the bleach solution is the only product registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as effective against C. difficile spores.

“The goal was to reduce hospital-acquired C. difficile infection rates in two of our highest-incidence units by 30 percent,” says lead investigator Robert Orenstein. In fact, the data show the researchers far exceeded that preliminary goal. At the end of the study, one hospital unit had gone 137 days without a hospital-acquired C. difficile infection.

Patients and staff tolerated this daily cleaning with the bleach wipes without significant concerns. Researchers concluded that this type of disinfection process was effective at reducing C. difficileinfections on these units and should be instituted in other hospital units with high infection rates.

Chlorine bleach is an EPA- registered hospital disinfectant that destroys hospital “superbugs” like MRSA, C. difficile, and other opportunistic pathogens. Hand-washing, a clean environment, appropriate infection barriers and early identification of patients at high risk for contamination remain the essential measures to prevent and control infection.

(Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Caring for Colorado Foundation. He is also chair of the Water Quality & Health Council.)