Clostridium difficile, ( C. difficile) is a bacterial species normally found in the human bowel. Illness results when this normal stain either mutates in response to antibiotic treatment the individual is taking, or through cross contamination. Cross contamination occurs when the individual contracts a mutant strain of C. difficle from a contaminated surface, object or another individual ill with C. difficile.
The use of antibiotics is the most common method of contracting C. difficile diarrhea and collitis (inflammation and irritation of the colon). This is due to the fact that the antibiotics taken by the individual also target some susceptible good bacterial strains resident in the individual’s bowel.
The death of a large quantity of good helpful bacteria in the human bowel, upsets the normal healthy balence of the bacterial populations within the bowel. This decrease in the levels of good bacterial leaves the bowel open to be populated by increased numbers of unhealthy bacteria. Additionally, this leaves the bowel open to be populated by mutant strains of harmful bacteria such as C. Difficile.
In individuals with health complications, compromised immune systems and those weakened by pre-existing disease may at risk to severe complications, such as extreme dehydration and in some cases, infection can be fatal. C. Difficle is often hospital or health care facility associated and acquired. Proper hand-washing is extremely effective in the prevention of C. difficile transmission.
The symptoms of C. difficile include:
watery diarrhea (at least three bowel movements per day for two or more days);
loss of appetite;
- abdominal pain or tenderness.
Health Canada. 2009. C. Difficile (Clostridium difficile). Retrieved March 31, 2009 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Kelly, Ciarian, P, LaMont, Thomas, J, and Pothoulakis, Charalabos. 1994. Clostridium difficile colitis. The New England Journal of Medicine. 330: 257-262.