As Dan Diekema, MD, FACP, mentioned last week, when 15% of asymptomatic hospitalized adults carry toxigenic strains of Clostridium difficile, it should alert us to focus on antimicrobial stewardship as a way to prevent C. difficile infections. But how effective are stewardship programs and does it matter what type of program you implement in your hospital? If only there was some sort of systematic review or meta-analysis to guide or decision making.
As if on cue, Leah Feazel and Marin Schweizer at University of Iowa published such a review and meta-analysis titled “Effect of antibiotic stewardship programmes on Clostridium difficile incidence” in Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy earlier this spring. Typical of projects completed by Marin and her group, they thoroughly combed the literature for papers. Here they identified 891 articles, reviewed 78 full articles and included 16 studies in their final analysis. Over all, stewardship programs were associated with a 52% reduction in C. difficile infections incidence. Importantly, programs appeared effective when implemented in whole hospital or geriatric settings and when utilizing a persuasive approach or a restrictive approach. I’ve provided the forest plot of studies below. An additional note is that the studies utilized various quasi-experimental study designs and based on the funnel plot, there appeared to be little publication bias.
Key points: (1) Stewardship works for C. difficile infections prevention, but it would have been nice if there was at least 1 funded randomize, controlled trial or cluster-randomized, controlled trial. (2) The meta-analytic approach, that Marin has pushed through her reviews of surgical site infection bundles and hand hygiene interventions, is a fantastic way to guide medical decision making and should be considered for inclusion in future hospital acquired infection guidelines. The reality is that infection prevention studies overwhelmingly utilize quasi-experimental designs. Why not identify the highest-quality QE studies and rigorously meta-analyze them as done here?
Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands). This post originally appeared at the blog Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention.