What Are the Basics of C. Difficile Infection?

What is C. difficile?

C. difficile is an infection caused by bacterium C. difficile. C. difficile is also known as Clostridium difficile or C. diff. If excessive antibiotics are taken, the growth of Clostridium difficile can be accelerated, thus affecting other bacteria in the intestines and causing inflammation.

Clostridium difficile is an obligate anaerobic bacterium of the genus Clostridium,and is very sensitive to oxygen.

C. difficile can trigger pseudomembranous colitis (PMC) and antibiotic-associated diarrhea, which can also cause death in severe cases. In addition to the above diseases, C. difficile can also trigger pyelonephritis, meningitis, abdominal and vaginal infections, bacteremia and gas gangrene.


What causes C. difficile infection?

Natural Environment:
C. difficile can be found almost everywhere in the natural environment, such as soil, hay, sand, feces of some large animals (cattle, donkey, and horse), and feces of dogs, cats, rodents and humans, all of which may become sources of infection.

Long-Term Use of Antibiotics:
Long-term use of antibiotics, such as ampicillin, cephalosporin, lincomycin, clindamycin, erythromycin, tetracycline resistance, can easily cause dysbacteriosis, then leading to antibiotic-related diarrhea.

Serious Illness or Medical Procedure:
It you have inflammatory bowel disease or colorectal cancer, you’re more susceptible to a C. difficile infection. Your risk of C. difficile infection is also greater if you’ve had abdominal surgery or a gastrointestinal procedure.

What are the symptoms of C. difficile infection?

In mild cases of C. difficile infection, symptoms may include watery diarrhea three or more times a day for more than two days, and mild abdominal cramping and tenderness.

In severe cases of C. difficile infection, symptoms are as follows:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fever
  • Blood or pus in the stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Kidney failure
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Watery diarrhea 10-15 times a day
  • Increased white blood cell count


How to test C. difficile infection?

Stool Tests:
Generally, we can detect the toxins produced by C. difficile bacteria in patient’s stool sample. Several main types of lab tests are as follows:

  • Cell cytotoxicity assay
  • Enzyme immunoassay
  • Polymerase chain reaction

Imaging Tests:
An abdominal X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scan can provide images of your colon, thus detecting the presence of complications like thickening of the colon wall, expanding of the bowel, or even perforation in the lining of your colon.

Colon Examinations:
The common colon examinations include flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, they will insert a flexible tube with a small camera on one end into your colon to look for areas of inflammation and pseudomembranous.


How to prevent or treat C. difficile infection?


The key to preventing C. difficile infection is the rational use of antibiotics. You can’t use antibiotics for long periods of time and in large doses.

Avoid direct contact with the patient, wear gloves, other necessary preventive measures also include properly handling the patient’s feces or other contaminants used by the patient.

Medical Treatments:

Most strains of C. difficile are sensitive to antibiotics, including penicillin, tetracycline, etc. However, intestinal diseases caused by the bacteria are usually treated with taking vancomycin or metronidazole orally. For patients who cannot tolerate oral antibiotic treatment, enteral administration can be used.

For people with severe pain, organ failure, toxic megacolon or inflammation of the lining of the abdominal wall, surgery to remove the diseased portion of the colon may be the only option.


How long is the C. difficile incubation period?

The exact length of the C. difficile incubation period isn’t known, but it’s generally fewer than seven days.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.