New Name, Same Disinfection Requirements:  Unpacking the New Taxonomic Classification of C. diff
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HospitalsApril 30, 2019

New Name, Same Disinfection Requirements: Unpacking the New Taxonomic Classification of C. diff

by David St. Clair, Chairman and CFO, Halosil International

The C. diff bacterium is going by a new taxonomy in the infectious disease community, but luckily, its moniker is staying the same. Formerly classified as Clostridium difficile, C. diff is now to be called Clostridioides difficile (pronounced “Clostridee-oy-dees”).

Why the change? After a complete sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene that emphasized the phylogenetic diversity of this group of organisms, scientists uncovered that the Clostridium sensu stricto genus, which previously included C diff, should be reserved for bacterium species including the “rRNA cluster I” only, thus reclassifying the Clostridium genus. As a result of this finding, scientists recognized the need to recategorize the genus of C. difficile, thus requiring a new name.

Settling on this new taxonomy didn’t come easy. Originally, scientists wanted to rename the bacterium to Peptoclostridium difficile in order to accommodate the Clostridium species in the family Peptostreptococcaceae. However, scientists voiced concern over changing the shorthand names of C. difficile or C. diff, since these terms are widespread across commercial products, packaging, computer systems, and clinical laboratories involved in treatment and disinfection. For fear of creating confusion, they searched for a different term that could preserve the well-known C. diff moniker, arriving at Clostridioides difficile instead.

Now that the name change has been made, various institutions and organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are adopting the new term in lieu of the old. While the scientific community may have assigned a new taxonomy to C. difficile, the disinfection practices for environments in which the highly resistant bacterium are present remain the same.

1. Identify Susceptible Environments

Healthcare settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes, are filled with many individuals that have weakened immune systems and carry infectious diseases. Consequently, these individuals are more susceptible to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which tend to spread due to exposure to highly contagious pathogens, such as those of C. diff. According to the CDC’s most recent HAI report, approximately 13% of the 3,231 hospitals in the U.S. received a Standardized Infection Ratio (SIR) significantly worse (higher) than 0.8, which is the national average.

When creating a C. diff disinfection plan, it’s important to identify susceptible environments in order to understand which locations and surfaces need to be targeted in disinfection cycles. Individuals aged 65 years and older are at an increased risk for contracting C. diff, and about one in 11 will die from a C. diff infection within one month of contracting the bacteria. Additionally, patients who are on antibiotics are seven to 10 times more likely to contract C. diff while taking medications and during the month following treatment. Since healthcare settings of all kinds frequently host these at-risk individuals, it’s critical that hospitals and long term care institutions adhere to the most stringent disinfection practices.

2. Disinfect the Appropriate Surfaces

When C. difficile germs are outside of the body and on surfaces, they become inactive spores, which can live for months and even years on surfaces. That said, the bacterium can survive and spread via a myriad of surfaces found in treatment areas, patient rooms, and public settings inside healthcare facilities.

While it’s important to disinfect as many environments and surfaces as possible, the CDC recommends focusing disinfection practices on patient-care environments, including the immediate vicinity around a patient infected by C. diff and high-touch surfaces, such as the curtain that separates patients’ beds. General hospital areas and equipment that are subject to transient patient visits should also be disinfected, such as radiology, the emergency department, and physical therapy areas. Due to high patient turnover and overall frequency of use, however, hospitals often fail to thoroughly disinfect all of the spaces and equipment that are exposed to C. difficile and other contagious pathogens.

3. Use the Right Disinfection Solution

Since the new taxonomy of C. diff leaves its moniker untouched, identifying the products and methods that work best for eradicating Clostridioides difficile is as straightforward as it was for Clostridium difficile. In order to properly eradicate C. diff, the CDC recommends disinfecting all susceptible surfaces a minimum of once a day.

However, a general cleaning product won’t get the job done. In its recommended daily disinfections, the CDC also advises the use of a C. difficile sporicidal agent that is a registered antimicrobial product under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A list of these approved disinfectants, which includes HaloMist®, EPA Registration No. 84526-6, can be found on List K.

Taking C. diff Head On

Regardless of its name, C. diff remains a formidable, highly resistant HAI. Our products are ready to take on persistent pathogens like those of C. diff by delivering 6-log disinfection to the many complex surfaces and environments found in healthcare settings. With the highest possible efficacy, our Halo Disinfection System® achieves uniform coverage through the dry fogging delivery of our proprietary HaloMist® solution, killing 99.9999% of even the most resistant C. difficile spores.

Ready to eliminate C. diff spores in your healthcare environment? Call Halosil today.