C. diff infections on the rise in hospitals, reports Harvard Men’s Health Watch

Published: June, 2010

Antibiotics aim to treat or prevent infections. In hospitals, though, the use of antibiotics is contributing to a distressing number of infections. The culprit is often Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a bacterium that normally lives quietly in the human digestive tract, reports the June issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch.

Although C. diff is only a small player in the ever-shifting microbial community in the human gut, it has become a leading cause of infectious diarrhea in the United States. Antibiotics are largely to blame. When they are taken to kill off harmful microbes, they often cause collateral damage—destroying bacteria that are neutral or helpful to the body. This creates a void that is often filled by C. diff, especially in hospitalized patients, many of whom are already weakened and ill-prepared to withstand the stress of diarrhea and fever.

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