Peggy Lillis Foundation Lauds CDC's New, More Comprehensive Study on the Burden of C. difficile Infections in the United States

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Leading advocacy and disease-awareness nonprofits applauds Centers for Disease Control & Prevention's new study that calls attention to nearly 500,000 Americans afflicted with Clostridium difficile infections annually, including 29,000 deaths linked to the disease.

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Like most Americans, my brother Liam and I were blissfully unaware of C. diff’s existence until it killed our mother Peggy Lillis on April 21, 2010.

On Wednesday, February 25, Peggy Lillis Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a nationwide Clostridium difficile (C. diff) awareness movement, lauded the release of a new C. diff burden study by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The study notes that C. diff caused almost half a million infections among Americans in a single year, including more than 100,000 in U.S. nursing homes.

The study also estimates that 29,000 patients died within 30 days of the initial diagnosis of C. diff, including 15,000 estimated to be directly attributable to the disease. Previous studies estimated C. diff-related deaths at 14,000. According to CDC, C. diff has become the most common microbial cause of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals and costs up to $4.8 billion each year in excess health care costs for acute care facilities alone. The new study found that 1 out of every 5 patients with a healthcare-associated C. difficile infection experienced a recurrence of the infection and 1 out of every 9 patients aged 65 or older with a healthcare-associated C. difficile infection died within 30 days of diagnosis.

“Like most Americans, my brother Liam and I were blissfully unaware of C. diff’s existence until it killed our mother Peggy Lillis on April 21, 2010,” said Christian John Lillis, PLF’s executive director. “Our mother was an extraordinary woman, whose life was tragically claimed by this disease at age 56. The time between when her symptoms manifested until her death was only 6 days.”

Lillis continued, “It is my sincere hope that this new, more comprehensive assessment of C. diff’s impact will spark much greater attention to this disease. Increased public awareness about C. diff’s prevalence, risk factors, prevention and treatment is crucial so Americans can make informed decisions and seek help early. We must also translate that awareness into tangible policy changes that we know will save lives. That’s why Peggy Lillis Foundation advocates for robust antibiotic stewardship, sanitation and hand hygiene programs at every heatlh care facility; mandatory public reporting in every state; and increased public and private investment in both prevention and treatments.”

Catherine Duff, a C. diff survivor and founder of The Fecal Transplant Foundation, said: “We commend the CDC’s confirmation today of the devastatingly high numbers of infections and deaths caused each year in the U.S. by C. difficile infections. We wholeheartedly support the CDC’s position that currently, fecal transplant is the only known way to restore the damage and destruction caused to the gut microbiota by C. difficile infection in particular, and antibiotic use in general, and that fecal transplant should now no longer be considered the treatment of last resort for C. difficile infection, but should instead be considered for use much earlier in the treatment protocols for C. difficile. It is our belief that FMT should be more widely available and accessible to those in need, and we will continue to work toward that end.”

“453,000 infections and 29,000 deaths are big, often abstract numbers. It’s important to keep in mind the actual people behind them,” said Lillis. “Every day we hear from people whose lives have been irrevocably harmed by C. diff. Like a young woman who’s virulent C. diff infection left her unable to have children. Like Jeff who has had 13 recurrences. Like the parents of 3-year-old Anthony, whose battle with Shwachman–Diamond syndrome has left him vulnerable to recurrent C. diff infections. We also hear from famillies like the Dexters, the Adamses, and the Mulligans, who represent the tens of thousands who lose a loved one to this disease ever year.”

About Clostridium difficile
An epidemic that claims the lives of more than 29,000 Americans every year, C. diff. infects almost 500,000 in the U.S. annually. That’s one infection every minute. Deaths linked to the disease, have increased an average 30 percent per year throughout the last decade. Clostridium difficile is a disease associated with antibiotics that make the body vulnerable to bacterial infections. C. diff. can be transmitted between people by both feces and food. C. diff flourishes in hospital and long-term care settings, to which 90 percent of cases can be linked.

About the Peggy Lillis Foundation
The Peggy Lillis Foundation was established in memory of the Brooklyn kindergarten teacher and mother of two who died suddenly in April 2010 following a brief bout with C. diff. The foundation works toward a world where C. diff. infections are rare, treatable, and survivable. To join us in the fight against C. diff, please visit http://www.peggyfoundation.org.

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Christian John Lillis
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