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General Health Channel
Reported November 30, 2012

Feces Fight-Off Deadly Infection -- Research Summary

BACKGROUND: Clostridium difficile, also called C. diff, is a bacterium. Although illness from C. diff most commonly affects older adults in hospitals or long-term care facilities, C. diff infections have become more frequent, more severe, and more difficult to treat in recent years. C. diff is found throughout the environment in soil, air, water, and human and animal feces. The bacteria is passed through feces and spreads to other locations like hands and surfaces when people don’t wash their hands properly. Most healthy people do not become sick from C. diff, but if a person is taking antibiotics, which destroy some helpful bacteria, they can develop an infection. Once established, C. diff can produce toxins that attack the lining of the intestine and the toxins destroy cells and produce patches of inflammatory cells and decaying cellular debris inside the colon. (Source: Mayo Clinic)

SIGNS: Some of the most common signs of mild or moderate C. diff infection are watery diarrhea three or more times a day for two days or longer and mild abdominal cramping and tenderness. However, in severe cases C. diff can cause the colon to become inflamed (colitis) or form patches of raw tissue that can bleed or produce pus. Signs of a severe C. diff infection are fever, blood and pus in stool, nausea, dehydration, abdominal cramping and pain, loss of appetite, and watery diarrhea 10 to 15 times a day. It is important to see a doctor because even mild C. diff infections can quickly progress to a fatal disease if not treated in time.

TREATMENT: For some people with mild C. diff infections, it may enough to just stop taking the antibiotics that triggered the infection. However, further treatment is sometimes required. Treatment for C. diff includes:

  • Antibiotics – The commonly used antibiotics to treat C. diff are metronidazole and vancomycin, which keep the bacteria from growing and allows normal bacteria to flourish in the intestine again.
  • Probiotics – Probiotics like bacteria and yeast help restore a healthy balance in the intestinal track. The yeast Saccharomyces boulardii, with antibiotics, might help prevent recurrent C. diff infections.
  • Surgery – For cases of C. diff where the person has severe pain, organ failure, or inflammation of the lining of the abdominal wall, removal of the diseased portion of the colon may be the only option. (Source: Mayo Clinic)

FECAL TRANSPLANT: In a fecal transplant stool from a healthy donor is emulsified, usually mixed with saline or water, and transferred via a nasal tube or enema to the gut of a seriously ill C. diff patient where the healthy fecal bacteria can help to restore balance to the patients’ bowels. Although regarded as a fringe treatment for the past decade, a review of over two dozen scientific reports found that fecal transplant cured the problem in 92% of the cases, a better record than that of some other treatments. (Source: NBC News Online) MORE

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