Nursing assistants most vulnerable to C. diff contamination on hands, research shows

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Healthcare workers frequently have Clostridium difficile spores on their hands after providing routine care for an infected person, and nursing assistants have by far the highest incidence of contamination, according to recently published research from France.

Researchers based at a university hospital in Paris examined caregivers' hands after they came into contact with C. diff patients in an infection control unit. Protocols included wearing disposable gowns with full-length sleeves and gloves.

About a quarter of the workers had spores on their hands after providing routine care to these patients, the investigators found. High-risk contact such as digital rectal exams or changing bed linen increased the likelihood of colonization.

Nursing assistants (42%) were more likely to be contaminated than physicians (23%) or nurses (19%). This likely is because the assistants had more high-risk contact with patients, the researchers surmised.

"This is the first known study focusing on the carriage of viable C. difficile spores on healthcare workers' hands," stated lead author Caroline Landelle, Pharm.D., Ph.D. "Because C. difficile spores are so resistant and persistent to disinfection, glove use is not an absolute barrier against the contamination of healthcare workers' hands.”

Caregivers must wash their hands and follow hand hygiene protocols, Landelle stressed.

Findings appear in the current issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

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