Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) is a bacterium that causes inflammation (colitis) of the colon and can cause diarrhea. The C. diff bacterium occurs everywhere in the environment and an infection usually occurs after a course of antibiotics that changes the balance of the normal colon bacteria allowing the C. diff bacteria to thrive and produce toxins (American College of Gastroenterology). Some factors that increase the risk of contracting C. diff include:
being 65 years or older
having a compromised immune system
having had previous C. diff infections.
Some healthy people naturally carry the bacteria in their intestines with no ill effects, but the spores from the bacteria can be passed on to other people through improper hand washing. Once introduced, the bacteria can produce toxins that attack the lining of the intestine and produce symptoms that may include:
Nausea (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Severe cases of infection can lead to serious intestinal inflammation, which could lead to an enlarged colon and a response to infection called sepsis. Severe diarrhea can lead to life-threatening dehydration (WebMD). Preventive measures include avoiding unnecessary use of broad spectrum antibiotics. As C. diff is contagious frequent hand washing is important to prevent the spread of infection to others.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (December 17, 2018). Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Surawicz, Christina M. (December 2012). C. Difficile Infection. American College of Gastroenterology.
WebMD. (n.d.). Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff). WebMD.