The Family Health Guide

Clostridium difficile: An intestinal infection on the rise

When you're admitted to a hospital, you expect to receive tests and treatments that will make you feel better. When you get antibiotics in the hospital, you expect that the drugs will treat or prevent infection. But it doesn't always work that way. A distressing number of patients acquire infections while they are in the hospital. And antibiotic therapy can actually increase the odds of coming down with a hospital-acquired infection caused by the bacterium named Clostridium difficile. Although doctors are working hard to control intestinal infections caused by the bug commonly known as C. diff, the problem is rapidly becoming more common, more serious, and harder to treat.

A bit player takes center stage

C. diff is the most important cause of infectious diarrhea in the United States, but it's a bit player on the long roster of intestinal bacteria. In fact, only 1% to 3% of healthy adults harbor C. diff among their normal intestinal bacteria, and, even then, C. diff is present in tiny numbers and is usually harmless.

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