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Clostridium Difficile aka C. Diff. aka Deadly Diarrhea

medical diagram showing the effects of Clostridium Difficile | GI NorthWhile any bought of diarrhea can seem unbearable, thank your lucky stars if you have never experienced a case of C. difficile diarrhea, a.k.a. “deadly diarrhea.” Find out more about the causes and symptoms of deadly diarrhea and what you can do to prevent and cure this gastrointestinal infection.

What causes deadly diarrhea?

Clostridium Difficile, also known as C. difficile or even “C. diff.” is a gram-positive spore-forming bacteria that causes a potentially life-threatening diarrheal illness. The illness develops as a result of toxins released from the clostridium spores that cause inflammation of the intestines, or colitis. Typical symptoms of C. diff. colitis include fever and abdominal pain accompanied by 10 to 12 watery stools per day that may contain blood or pus. C. diff. diarrhea also tends to have a very strong and distinctive odor.

How do you get deadly diarrhea?

About 500,000 cases of clostridal illness and 15,000 deaths due to the infection occur in the United States each year.

One of the most important risk factors for the development of C. difficile diarrhea is the use of antibiotics. Due to the loss of competition from “friendly bacteria” in the gut that are wiped out by antibiotic use, infectious bacteria such as Clostridium difficile are able to replicate unchecked in the bowel and cause infection. Most people who develop antibiotic-associated C. difficile colitis will notice the onset of symptoms within a month after initiation of antibiotic treatment.

Exposure to people who are sick with C. difficile is another important risk factor for developing the illness. Be sure to practice good hand hygiene around anyone who is sick with C. diff. colitis. Advanced age also tends to increase the severity of Clostridium difficile infection; most people who die from C. difficile diarrhea are over the age of 65.

How do you prevent deadly diarrhea?

Disinfection of hands and surfaces that have come into contact with anyone who is sick with C. difficile diarrhea is an important step in preventing the spread of this infection.

You can also help prevent the development of C. diff. diarrhea with smart antibiotic use. Talk to your doctor about taking a probiotic along with your next antibiotic prescription to help restore your friendly gut bacteria before C. difficile can cause infection. Also ask about your healthcare facility’s approach to “antibiotic stewardship,” techniques designed to help prevent antibiotic resistance and antibiotic-associated colitis.

How is deadly diarrhea treated?

As it is caused by a bacteria, the first line treatment for C. difficile diarrhea is with antibiotics. The severity of the infection will determine if the treatment can take place as an outpatient or if hospitalization will be needed. If the digestive tract has been severely damaged by the infection, surgery may be needed for some patients suffering from C. diff. diarrhea. Patients that do not respond to antibiotic or other treatments may be offered a fecal microbiota transplant, a procedure that has been developed relatively recently but has already shown promising success rates.

While intended to be informational, this article cannot take the place of professional medical advice. If you have concerns about C. difficile or other forms of diarrhea, contact a local healthcare professional. Also consider choosing GI North for your digestive tract health needs. The GI North team, lead by Drs. Cofrancesco and Quijano, serves the Cumming, GA area as well as the surrounding areas Alpharetta, Roswell, Canton, and Suwanee. For appointments in Spanish, please ask for Dr. Quijano.

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