Drug Resistant C. difficile

Type: Bacterial

Geography: North America, Europe, Australia

Cases Per Year: 453,000

Fatality Rate: 6%

First Discovered: 2005 in the United States

Clostridiodes difficile is a bacterium that causes colitis (inflammation of the colon). Symptoms may develop within a few days and include diarrhea or frequent bowel movements for several days, fever, stomach tenderness or pain, loss of appetite, and nausea.

It is transmitted between people via the fecal-oral route. The organism forms heat-resistant spores that are not killed by common cleaning methods, so the spores survive for long periods. Once spores are ingested, their acid-resistance allows them to pass through the stomach. Upon exposure to bile acids, they germinate and multiply in the colon.

About 1 in 6 patients who get C. diff will get it again in the subsequent 2-8 weeks. Within a month of diagnosis, 1 in 11 people over age 65 die of a healthcare-associated C. diff infection. Risk factors for C. diff include taking antibiotics, being 65 or older, recent hospitalizations, a weakened immune system, and previous infection with C. diff or known exposure to the germs. It is highly contagious and spread can be prevented by washing hands with soap and water and using a separate bathroom if you are infected.

Photo: Clostridium difficile – Electron micrograph.