Clostridium difficile, also called C. diff or C. difficile, is a common bacterium that can live in the human gut. It can cause symptoms that range from diarrhea to colitis, an infection in the colon that can be life-threatening. Although some healthy people may be affected, C. diff infection is most common in older adults or those in hospitals or long-term care facilities and typically occurs after the use of antibiotic medications. Other risk factors include surgery of the GI tract, diseases of the colon, weakened immune system, previous C. diff infection, and use of certain medications such as chemotherapy or proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs). More than 500,000 people are sickened by C. diff each year, and these infections are becoming more severe and harder to treat.
|Gram positive C. diff bacteria|
Courtesy CDC/Lois. S. Wiggs
C. difficile bacteria are passed in feces and can be easily spread to food, surfaces and other people. The bacteria produce spores that can live on surfaces for weeks or months.
The most common symptoms of a mild to moderate infection are watery diarrhea at least three times a day for more than two days and abdominal cramping and tenderness. Severe C. diff infection can cause diarrhea more than 10 times a day, dehydration, severe cramping, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and blood or pus in the stool.
There are no licensed vaccines that can prevent C. diff infection. Prevention is needed because the C. diff spores can survive decontamination and live for months; C. diff infection is difficult to control once it is present in an environment. PMG Research conducts vaccine studies because the approval of new vaccines can only happen through clinical trials and the willingness of people to participate.
Right now, PMG is seeking volunteers over the age of 50 for C. diff vaccine research studies in Cary, Charlotte, Hickory and Wilmington, NC and Charleston, SC. We invite you to visit our website to learn more about the specifics of these and other studies.
And remember - good hand-washing is the best defense, not only against C. diff, but against most viruses and bacteria!