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Clostridium difficile (C. dif)

Clostridium difficile (C. dif)

 

Clostridium difficile, commonly shortened to C.diff is a bacteria present in  the colons of 2-5% of the adult population. If able to become established (see risks below) C.Diff may disrupt the normal balance of gut flora and opportunistically dominate. Pathogenic strains of C. diff produce multiple toxin. Two of these toxins aptly named, Clostridium difficile A and Clostridium toxin B, produce diarrhea and inflammation in infected individuals. Aggressive treatment with antibiotics is advised to mitigate the length of infection.

Clostridium difficile infections (CDI) are among the most common health care associated infections in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the risk for CDI increases in patients with:

  • antibiotic exposure (people on antibiotics are 7-10 times more likely to experience CDI while on the drugs and during the month after)
  • proton pump inhibitors
  • gastrointestinal surgery/manipulation
  • long lengthy stay in health care settings
  • a serious underlying disease
  • immunocompromising conditions
  • advanced age

C. diff infections are extremely contagious, and are frequently passed to others through direct contact with fecal particulates directly by the patient or by care takers and medical personnel.  The reason transmission rates are high is because C. diff is a spore forming bacteria.C. diff spores are hearty and can survive in environmentally stressful environments for extended periods of time that the active bacteria could not; for this reason C. diff may survive on surfaces even after thoroughly washing. To mitigate transmission, individuals with CDI shouldn’t share a bathroom (if possible) with others and thorough cleaning of rooms patient has resided with special spore-killing disinfectants must be performed regularly. Hand sanitizers do not kill C. diff, washing with warm soap and water is better, but still may remain insufficient alone. Loved ones, care takers and medical personnel should avoid touching surfaces whenever possible and wear gloves and gowns when contact with contaminated surfaces is possible.

 


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