Nov 03, 2023
The bacteria Clostridium difficile is the source of infections in the colon, which is the longest segment of the large intestine. The symptoms could include anything from diarrhea to potentially fatal colon damage. The names C. difficile and C. diff are commonly used to refer to the bacteria.
C. difficile infections often follow the use of antibiotic drugs. Elderly individuals in hospitals or long-term care facilities comprise most of those affected. Infections with C. difficile can also occur in assisted living or non-hospital settings. Younger people are susceptible to serious infections caused by specific types of germs.
Formerly, the bacterium was known as Clostridium difficile.
A sudden, severe C. difficile infection can cause an inflammatory colon that grows bigger and becomes poisonous (a condition known as a megacolon). Moreover, sepsis may result from it, a disease in which the body harms its tissues to combat an infection. Intensive care unit patients are admitted if they have sepsis or toxic megacolon. Conversely, poisonous megacolon
The body is exposed to C. difficile bacteria through the mouth. They can reproduce in the small intestine. The bacteria can invade the colon, and a portion of the large intestine, and cause tissue damage by releasing toxins. Watery diarrhea and cell death are the results of these toxins.
Outside the colon, bacteria are inactive. They can endure for an extended period in places like:
Bacteria can cause infection when they re-enter a person's digestive system and become active. Because it can survive outside of the body, the bacterium C. difficile spreads easily. Hands that are not properly washed facilitate the transmission of bacteria.
Some individuals carry intestinal C. difficile bacteria but never experience disease. These people are the carriers of the bacterium. They can spread infections without really being sick.
Five to ten days after beginning an antibiotic, symptoms typically begin to show. On the other hand, symptoms could show up as late as three months or as early as the first day.
The most common indications of a mild to moderate infection with C. difficile are as follows:
Individuals with C. difficile infections are not considered risk factors. Some factors, though, make things more dangerous.
The intestines are home to a variety of bacteria species. Many of them support the body's defense mechanism against infection. Antibiotics used to treat illnesses often kill both the germs causing the infection and some helpful microorganisms in the body.
If there aren't enough good bacteria to keep C. difficile in control, it could spread quickly. Any medicine can cause an infection with C. difficile. Nonetheless, the drugs listed below are the ones that typically result in a C. difficile infection:
A family of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors is intended to lower the production of stomach acid; however, it also increases the chance of contracting C. difficile infection.
Infections with C. difficile are most common in those who are or have recently been in healthcare settings. These include hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. These are places where the population's health raises the risk of infection, germs can move easily, and antibiotic use is common. In hospitals and nursing homes, C. difficile spreads by:
Certain medical disorders or procedures may increase the risk of contracting a C. difficile infection. These include:
The following factors are used to diagnose a C. difficile infection:
It is not recommended to test for C. difficile infection in people who have regular, well-formed stools. Infections with C. difficile can happen to individuals who have never used antibiotics. It is therefore not necessary to have used antibiotics recently to diagnose C. difficile infection.
Toxins or bacterial strains that produce toxins can be detected in a stool sample, which can be tested once or more if a C. difficile infection is suspected.
In rare cases, a colonoscopy may be performed by a medical practitioner to support a diagnosis of C. difficile infection. Flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy are the tests used. The tests involve putting a flexible tube with a tiny camera on one end into the colon to identify problem areas. These tests can also look for other causes of the symptoms.
To rule out any potential effects from a C. difficile infection, an X-ray or CT scan of the stomach region might be performed. Such imaging examinations can determine:
Treatment is limited to the infection's symptoms. Medical care is not provided to carriers of the bacteria who are left untreated.
If an antibiotic is connected to a C. difficile infection, a doctor is likely to discontinue using it. However, using an antibiotic is frequently required while treating another infectious disease. The chance of diarrhea caused by a C. difficile infection may be decreased by switching to a different medication.
Antibiotics are the mainstay of treatment for C. difficile infections. Commonly used antibiotics include:
The following circumstances may call for surgery to remove the damaged colonic segment:
About 25% of patients have recurrence after receiving treatment for their C. difficile infection. One explanation could be that the first illness never completely healed or that bacteria could spread to cause new infections. The risk increases with each C. difficile infection. After three or more infections, there is a greater than 50% likelihood of getting another one.
Recurrent infections are more likely to occur in people who:
Options for treatment once a C. difficile infection recurs include:
The patient undergoing an FMT may be required to sign a consent letter that details the risks and advantages of the procedure. FMT is frequently called a stool transplant or an intestinal microbiota transplant.
FMT restores healthy intestinal bacteria in the colon by introducing donor stool with the use of special tubes put into the rectum.
Donors are subjected to medical screening, blood is screened for infections, and stools are carefully inspected for parasites, viruses, and other infectious agents before being used in FMT.
Prevent from using antibiotics on C. difficile unless required. In certain cases, viral infections and other non-bacterial illnesses are treated with antibiotics.
If you're not sure if you need an antibiotic, ask your doctor if you can get a prescription for a drug that targets the infection specifically or has a shorter half-life. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics target particular species of bacteria. They are less prone to destroy helpful microbes.
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities adopt stringent infection control protocols to help halt the spread of C. difficile. If you have a loved one in a hospital or assisted living facility, follow the rules.
Make inquiries if you see carers or other people not following the rules.
Precautions against Clostridium difficile include:
Additionally, it is advised that guests of medical institutions wash their hands with soap and warm water before entering and exiting rooms.
A C. difficile infection can cause the following adverse effects:
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