Ask anyone who has had a Clostridium difficile (C. difficile, or C. diff) infection and they will probably tell you that it was one of the worst experiences of their life. Imagine the worst flu you’ve ever had but on steroids! C. diff is affectionately referred to as “deadly diarrhea” and with symptoms such as watery diarrhea 10 to 15 times a day that’s no joke! It can also come with a multitude of other symptoms such as: severe abdominal pain/cramping, rapid heart rate, fever, blood or pus in the stool, nausea, dehydration, and kidney failure.
What is C. Diff?
C. diff is one of the many different types of bacteria that lives in our intestines. It may sound gross but bacteria in your intestines are completely normal and you need a good balance of them to remain healthy. When something such as antibiotic use throws off the balance in your intestines C. diff may start to grow out of control and begin release toxins that attack the lining of the intestines which leads to that deadly diarrhea.
Is C. Diff contagious?
C. diff is contagious, so even if you were not recently on antibiotics, you can still catch C. diff by contact with a contaminated surface. Spores from C. diff bacteria come from human feces, soil, water and animal feces. These spores can also live for weeks or months outside the body.
Who is at risk?
C. diff is most often associated with doctor or healthcare facility visits or recent antibiotic use. There is a higher risk for adults ages 50 and over, especially those that have frequent doctor visits or have had any type of recent surgery or a hospitalization.
What can you do to lower your risk?
Good handwashing practices, especially after doctor or healthcare facility visits are a great start to lowering your risk of getting a C. diff infection. Another way is to take probiotics daily anytime you take an antibiotic. The reason for this is because when you take an antibiotic it not only kills off the bad bacteria, but it also kills off the good bacteria, giving C. diff a chance to thrive. Taking a probiotic, even if it’s just store bought yogurt, helps feed and rebalance your good gut bacteria. These are not fool proof, but they may help.
A Vaccine to prevent C. Diff?
While Handwashing and probiotics are certainly a must, researchers agree they are still not enough when it comes to preventing this life-threatening infection. Which is why we are involved in a cutting-edge research study working on the development of a new vaccine for C. diff prevention. If you are interested in volunteering, this study is for people ages 50 and up who have been recently hospitalized, have an upcoming surgery, or have frequent healthcare contact. If you are not sure if you qualify, please give our office a call or sign up here and we will be glad to answer any questions!
Fleming Island Center for Clinical Research