Hospitals and other healthcare facilities have devoted considerable time and resources to combatting Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections in recent years. It often seemed like a losing battle, as the number of incidents steeply increased from 2000 to 2010. New numbers from the CDC offer hope that the major healthcare threat may finally be on the decline, according to NPR.

The new data is culled from 2011 to 2015, and it shows the rate of C. diff infection falling, the first statistically-observed decline in over a decade.

The CDC’s Emerging Infections Program notes the data was drawn “from approximately 4,000 short-term acute care hospitals, 501 long-term acute care hospitals, and 1,135 inpatient rehabilitation facilities.

This medical illustration shows a Clostridium difficile bacterium. (Image credit: CDC)

"Preliminary analyses suggest a 9 to 15 percent decrease in healthcare [C. diff] incidence nationally," Alice Guh, MD, MPH, medical officer at the CDC, told NPR. "It's very encouraging, but there's still a lot to do."

Because the prevalence of C. diff infections had previously grown so dramatically, even an admirable percentage decline could only cut the overall numbers so much. According to the CDC data, there were still 453,000 cases of C. diff infection in 2011. Of those, approximately 29,000 patients died within 30 days of the problem being identified. That remains a threefold increase from 2000.

The CDC attributes the recent downtick in C. diff infection rates to a combination of healthcare-associated infection reduction strategies, antibiotic stewardship plans, and vigilance around preventing cross transmission.