C-Diff- A Gastrointestinal Infection
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C-Diff- A Gastrointestinal Infection

What is C-diff How do we get C-diff

The human body is a remarkable machine that has the innate ability to repair itself. A human GI ( Gastrointestinal ) tract, is responsible, not only for the processing and elimination of food, water, and waste. It is also responsible for the elimination of harmful flora and fauna. Flora in this case refers to fungal growth, and fauna refers to bacterial and/or viral life. The GI tract has a very acidic pH of >7.4. With a pH at this level, it readily kills off the vast majority of both flora and fauna. But there are a few that are resistant to the pH levels, as well as anti-biotics. Some examples of these organisms include MRSA ( Methacillian Resistant Staph Aeureus ), VRE ( Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus ) E-coli ( Escherichia Coli ) and the topic of this article C-Diff ( Clostridium Difficile ).

Mayoclinic.com describes C-diff as : Clostridium difficile (klos-TRID-e-uhm dif-uh-SEEL), often called C. difficile or C. diff, is a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Illness from C. difficile most commonly affects older adults in hospitals or in long term care facilities and typically occurs after use of antibiotic medications. This bacteria is detected from a stool sample sent to a labratory to be tested for a specific toxin that this bacteria produces as its waste product. It is this waste product that causes much of the sysmptoms of the infection. Other than the loose stools, other indicators include thick mucous like secretions in the stool, foul odor, foul sweet odor, very frequent loose stool often several times an hour, weakness, dehydration, malnutrition, secondary GI issues such as cramping.

Sounds lovely doesnt it?. So how is this condition developed. C-diff is often found in low levels in the GI tract, but with long term antibiotic use, the bacteria that keep it in check, such as E-coli, are eliminated, thus allowing for the proliferation of this bacteria. Other transmission vectors include failure to wash hands after elimination ( urination, bowel movement ), failure to properly wash hands, stool to mouth transmission, and person to person. Often a person comes into the hospital setting with this condition. how that affects health care providers and visitors, is that the person is placed into contact isolation. This means that all staff and visitors must wear moisture proof gowns and don gloves. After leaving the room all persons must wash their hands for a minimum 30 seconds using hot water and approx. 3-5 ml of a clorhexadine based soap.

So how is this infection treated? If a person does test positive for c-diff, then it is very important to NOT give anti-diarrehals. The reason for this is that since the person is stooling, then the body is attempting to get rid of it. By giving a medication to stop the loose stool, then the bacteria will again build up and potentially make things worse. C-diff is resistant to many antobiotics, but there are a few that are effective. One of these is known as FLAGYL or Metronidazole. Although this medication is also used in joint, vaginal, and some skin infections, it seems to be most effective with c-diff.

Any time a person has loose stools, it does not mean they have this GI infection. Only a labratory test can determine if it really is C-diff. But there are some unique characteristics.

  1. Very frequent loose stools, up to several times an hour.
  2. Weakness, this is related to associated water loss, plenty of water is essential to help flush the system
  3. Very foul odor
  4. Copious amount of mucous like discharge
  5. Foul sweet odor

This covers the most common symptoms, but if you do have loose stool lasting for more than 2 days, it is important to seek medical attention. It is also possible that the poo is not c-diff but rather a parasite, either way get tested.

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