A new study conducted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) finds that while steps to stop the spread of the intestinal superbug Clostridium difficile-often called C. diff infection or CDI-have increased, they are not yielding significant improvements.

According to the survey of 1,087 APIC members conducted earlier this year, 70 percent have adopted additional intervention measures to counter CDI since March 2010, but only 42 percent have seen a decline in CDI rates in their healthcare facilities; 43 percent report no decline at all.

CDI can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon, and it kills about 14,000 Americans each year. It most commonly affects older adults in hospitals or in long-term-care facilities.

While the researchers were encouraged by the fact that more efforts are being undertaken to prevent CDI, "more needs to be done to reduce the spread of this disease," says Jennie Mayfield, APIC president-elect.

"Environmental Services [referring to cleaning and housekeeping services] must take the lead in developing aggressive programs [and] cleaning practices...and ensure that the results are shared with front-line staff. Without this, [conditions] are unlikely to improve."

The report did not specifically mention what types of "aggressive programs and cleaning practices" might be necessary, but because current cleaning practices are not having the desired results, some experts suggest new or alternative cleaning methodologies may now be called for.

For instance, some healthcare facilities are replacing conventional cleaning methods-cleaning cloths, mops, and buckets-with spray-and-vac or "no-touch" cleaning systems.

Dr. Jay Glasel, founder of Global Scientific Consulting, LLC, in Farmington, Connecticut, reports that these systems can be as much as "60 times more effective at reducing bacterial contamination when compared to conventional cleaning methods."

All the more reason to look into cleaning alternatives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths related to CDI are increasing, due in part to a stronger germ strain.