NPR: Deaths From Dangerous Gut Bacteria Hit Historic Highs

C. difficile is an important issue and testing for it is included in our DNA stool analysis. It is an excellent example of the double edged sword of prescription antibiotics.

Although resistant to antibiotics, treating it is usually effective when focusing on the overall health of the digestive tract rather than on directly killing the organism.

Excerpt from NPR:

While other health-care related infections have been decreasing in recent years, cases of Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, continue rising, according to Clifford McDonald of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is a bacterium that also happens to form spores that produce toxins that affect the colon, the large intestine,” Clifford said.

According to a new report from the CDC, the number of Americans getting infected and hospitalized with C. diff has more than tripled, and the number dying has quadrupled in recent years. About 14,000 Americans die each year from the infection, according to the CDC.

“It is now at historic highs,” McDonald said.

C. diff tends to hit people who are taking antibiotics for some other illness. The antibiotics wipe out other beneficial microbes, increasing the chances that C. diff will make them sick.

“Sometimes we talk about this as a one-two punch,” McDonald said.

Ironically, most C. diff cases can be traced to an encounter with the health care system.

“They come in contact with C. difficile maybe directly from the environment — a patient bed rail or something like that — or a health care worker may carry it to them on their hands,” McDonald said. “Then that patient, wherever that organism is now living on their skin — perhaps they touch their face, they swallow it. It passes into their intestine, where it causes symptoms and disease.”

Doctors had long thought most people get C. diff from hospitals. But it turns out that half of patients who have C. diff are already infected before they get to the hospital.

“This is a problem not just in hospitals but wherever health care is being delivered now, very commonly in nursing homes and outpatient settings,” he said.

Federal officials are urging health care workers to take several measures to try to stop C. diff from spreading. For one thing, doctors can use antibiotics a lot more sparingly. And once a patient had been diagnosed, patients should be isolated to minimize the chances they’ll spread the germ to other patients, the CDC says.

Full article from NPR here.

Article Courtesy:  Dr. Stephen Wangen

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