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Nursing Homes at Highest Risk for CDI Infections

Nursing home neglect attorneys report on a new product designed to treat those sick from infections from Clostridium difficile (CDI). These infections are rapidly become one of the most significant problems in American health care, specifically in nursing homes and hospitals.

CDI infections are caused by spore-forming bacteria, and although it can cause disease and death in all ages, those 65 and older are at particularly high risk. Incidences are rising at an alarming rate – data from the Agency for Healthcare Research revealed that between 1993 and 2001, the number of national CDI hospital discharges increased from more than 85,000 to nearly 149,000. Between 2001 and 2005, the rate increased again to more than 300,000. That is a 102% increase in only four years. CDI causes serious bouts of diarrhea, which can lead to sepsis, toxic dilation of the colon, and, ultimately, death.

Doctors in Ontario, Canada recognized an immense need for CDI treatment and developed a synthetic stool as a potential solution. The synthetic stool is comprised of 33 different types of bacteria, and was created in a device doctors termed the ‘Robogut.’ Invented by microbiologist Emma Allen-Vercoe, the Robogut is a device that mechanically mimics the environment in the human colon.

Doctors appropriately named the synthetic stool RePOOPulate, a play on words given that the treatment is intended to repopulate necessary bacteria in the digestive system. CDI attacks those who have recently undergone treatment with antibiotics. When CDI bacteria enter into the body, stomach acids are unable to kill it and it is able to pass into the gastrointestinal tract. In healthy bodies, normal bacteria do not allow CDI to root into the tract, so it merely passes through the body, not harming the individual. Antibiotics destroy these natural bacteria, leaving those patients vulnerable to CDI infections. The risk of contracting CDI increases 7-to-10-fold while taking antibiotics, and for one month after.

In the Robogut, doctors at the University of Guelph artificially grew this normal bacterium in effort to create a CDI treatment. Before this development, doctors were only able to treat CDI with more antibiotics. In the elderly and other vulnerable patients, antibiotics would only cause CDI reoccurrence, creating a life-threatening cycle of infection. With RePOOPulate, doctors are now able to re-introduce the good bacteria back into the gastrointestinal system to fight off the CDI.

To develop the synthetic stool, a team of scientists took a stool sample from a healthy woman who had not taken antibiotics in a decade. They selected 33 natural, healthy bacteria from this sample to administer to two CDI patients in a clinical trial. The bacteria cocktail grew in the patient’s gastrointestinal tract, pushing out the CDI bacteria, and eventually curing both patients.

Some are saying RePOOPulate is a just more effective form of a fecal transplant, a procedure in which stool from healthy individuals is transplanted into CDI patients. Fecal transplants are not approved by the FDA and are not always effective, although even the Mayo Clinic has started administering the treatment. Each fecal transplant requires a unique donor, so the treatment is expensive, and not particularly suited for mass availability. RePOOPulate offers an alternative for a more reproducible, safer, and more effective CDI treatment.

CDI places a significant burden on long term care facilities. If left untreated, CDI will eventually lead to death in those afflicted. Failing to recognize and adequately care for residents with CDI or other dangerous infections is a serious indication that the nursing home staff is neglectful or abusive. Unfortunately, seniors who using feeding tubes have a higher CDI incident rate as well as a higher CDI mortality rate. CDI has the ability to significantly contaminate enclosed spaces and the inanimate objects within those spaces, and can live on surfaces for up to five months, so it is imperative that nursing home common area are frequently and vigorously disinfected.

Nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Pintas & Mullins hope that this new development will help slow the increase of CDI incidence and mortality in American nursing homes. If you or someone you love developed serious CDI-related injuries from staff negligence, you may be entitled to compensation, and should contact a lawyer who can evaluate your potential claim.