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Clostridium difficile

What is C. Diff?

C. diff, also known as Clostridium difficile, is a bacterium that causes life-threatening symptoms ranging from diarrhea to colitis (i.e. inflammation of the colon). 

C. Diff Symptoms

The most common symptom of C. diff is diarrhea. Other symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal cramping, pain, and tenderness

  • Fever

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

Does your Stool Smell different when you have C. Diff?

There is a myth that C. diff can easily be detected if the smell of stool is “sweet.” However, studies have shown that there is no correlation between the incidence of C. diff and the smell of stool. 

What Causes C. Diff?

The spores in C. diff are found in stool. When individuals who are infected with C. diff do not thoroughly wash their hands, the spores can spread to food, surfaces, and objects. There are certain groups of people who are more susceptible to developing C. diff. Antibiotics affect gut microbiota, so individuals who are currently taking or have just finished taking antibiotics are at a higher risk of developing C. diff. 

Is there a Test for C. Diff?

Yes, there is a test for C. diff. The best way to detect C. diff is through a stool test. In some, more serious, cases, a doctor can order a colonoscopy, CT scan, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and/or X-ray to get a better picture of the condition of the intestines. 

How is C. Diff Diagnosed?

A doctor, often a pathologist, can confirm or deny the presence of C. diff. 

How do you Treat C. Diff?

While antibiotics are often the root cause of C. diff, there are certain antibiotics that target C. diff, including but not limited to fidaxomicin, metronidazole, and vancomycin. It is important to replace the liquids the body loses to diarrhea and avoid further dehydration. In more serious cases, fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) can be used to repopulate the colon with “good” bacteria and surgery can be used to remove damaged intestines.

Once you Treat C. Diff, can it come back?

Yes, C. diff can come back. Specifically, 1 out of 5 people have recurrent C. Diff 8-10 weeks after completely finishing antibiotics for the original infection. Risk factors commonly associated with recurrent C. diff include:

  • Advanced age

  • Antibiotic use

  • Chemotherapy

  • Gastric acid suppression

  • Gastrointestinal procedures

  • Hospitalization

  • Hypervirulent strains

  • Immunosuppression

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

  • Residence at a long-term care facility

  • Severe illness

Some of the simplest ways of preventing the recurrence of C. diff is to keep your healthcare provider informed of any prior instances of C. diff, avoid taking any unnecessary antibiotics, and to wash your hands after using the restroom and before eating.