Purpose: Despite recognition that Clostridium difficile diarrhea/colitis is a nosocomial infection, the manner in which this organism is transmitted is still not clear. Hands of health care workers have been shown to be contaminated with C. difficile and suggested as a vehicle of transmission. Therefore, we conducted a controlled trial of the use of disposable vinyl gloves by hospital personnel for all body substance contact (prior to the institution of universal body substance precautions) to study its effect on the incidence of C. difficile disease.
Patients and methods: The incidence of nosocomial C. difficile diarrhea was monitored by active surveillance for six months before and after an intensive education program regarding glove use on two hospital wards. The interventions included initial and periodic in-services, posters, and placement of boxes of gloves at every patient's bedside. Two comparable wards where no special intervention was instituted served as controls.
Results: A decrease in the incidence of C. difficile diarrhea from 7.7 cases/1,000 patient discharges during the six months before intervention to 1.5/1,000 during the six months of intervention on the glove wards was observed (p = 0.015). No significant change in incidence was observed on the two control wards during the same period (5.7/1,000 versus 4.2/1,000). Point prevalence of asymptomatic C. difficile carriage was also reduced significantly on the glove wards but not on the control wards after the intervention period (glove wards, 10 of 37 to four of 43, p = 0.029; control wards, five of 30 to five of 49, p = 0.19). The cost of 61,500 gloves (4,505 gloves/100 patients) used was $2,768 on the glove wards, compared with $1,895 (42,100 gloves; 3,532 gloves/100 patients) on the control wards.
Conclusions: Vinyl glove use was associated with a reduced incidence of C. difficile diarrhea and is indirect evidence for hand carriage as a means of nosocomial C. difficile spread.