AMSTERDAM (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) Clostridium difficile infections are a major driver of death and nursing home placement in Americans older than 65 years, according to research presented at a major international conference on infectious diseases.

A Medicare database review of almost 1.6 million patients has determined that 36% of those with C. difficile died, compared with 25% of an age-matched control group – an 11% attributable mortality. The infections also doubled the risk of placement in a skilled care nursing facility and tripled the risk of nursing home admission, Dr. Erik Dubberke said at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases annual congress.

Dr. Dubberke, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University, St. Louis, said these findings underscore not only the infection’s potential lethality, but its considerable impact on both short- and long-term quality of life.

His case-control study included 175,000 patients older than 65 years who were diagnosed with a C. difficile infection in 2011 – they were then matched with 1.45 million controls. This yielded 129,000 pairs matched for mortality, 105,000 matched for skilled nursing facility admission, and 93,500 matched for nursing home admission. The analysis controlled for age, gender, race, other infections, as well as health care utilization and a comprehensive group of acute and chronic conditions in the prior 12 months.

Overall, Dr. Dubberke found that 36% of cases and 25% of controls died during the year – a 44% increased risk of death and an 11% attributable mortality rate. During the same period, another 36% of the C. difficile cases were admitted to a skilled nursing facility, compared with 19% of controls – an 89% increased risk and 17% attributable admission rate.

C. difficile infections also exerted a significant impact on nursing home admissions: 15% of the cases in the study were admitted, compared with 5% of controls. This represented almost a tripling of risk (relative risk, 2.80), with an attributable admission rate of 10%, Dr. Dubberke said.

“These findings illustrate how C. difficile impacts quality of life, with short-term morbidity reflected in increasing admissions to skilled nursing facilities, and long-term morbidity by increasing admissions to nursing homes,” he said.

Dr. Dubberke had no financial disclosures.

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