Clostridium difficile is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines. Healthy people can have some of these bacteria in their colon without getting sick. However, if you have too many clostridium difficile bacteria, they can damage the colon and cause a serious, even life threatening, infection.
These bacteria are also called C. difficile or C. diff.
You may get a C. diff infection if you have been taking antibiotics for a while. Different antibiotics kill different kinds of bacteria. Antibiotics can upset the natural balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria in your gut. When an antibiotic kills 1 type of bacteria, this may let too many other bacteria grow in your gut. If you have too many C. difficile bacteria you may develop an infection.
You are also more likely to get a C. diff infection if:
The most common symptoms of C. diff infection are
The infection is diagnosed with tests of bowel movement samples. The tests can show the kind of bacteria causing the infection. Tests called cultures can show which antibiotics are best to treat the infection.
You may have the following tests to see if the infection is hurting your colon:
Even though antibiotics may have caused the C. diff infection, you will need more antibiotics to get rid of it. C. diff infections are usually treated with metronidazole or vancomycin. However, some strains of C. difficile are getting resistant to these antibiotics. This means that the medicines no longer kill the bacteria. Your provider will use culture test results to find an antibiotic that will work.
If the lining of your colon has been badly damaged by the infection, you may need surgery to remove the injured part of the colon.
If you are hospitalized, you may need to stay by yourself in a single room. This is to help make sure the bacteria stay in your room and don’t contaminate or infect other people.
A C. diff infection can cause your body to lose too much fluid (dehydration). The bacteria can also cause:
If you have C. difficile, you can avoid passing it to others by cleaning your hands well with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Everyone who comes into your room must also clean their hands before and after seeing you. This includes doctors, nurses, other staff, and visitors.
If you are being treated at the hospital for C. diff infection, you may need to stay in your room. If you are allowed to leave your room, you should not go to common areas, such as the gift shop or cafeteria. You can go to other areas of the hospital for treatments and tests. Usually the staff caring for you will wear protective gowns and gloves, which they will take off before leaving your room. Visitors may also need to wear gloves and a gown over their clothing. The housekeeping staff must also use gowns and gloves when entering your room and should clean all surfaces in the hospital room, including the bedrails and the telephone.
If you do not have C. difficile but want to avoid getting it, you should:
If you are at high risk for infection, you may be given medicine that may help you have a healthy balance of bacteria in your colon.