Clostridium difficile or C. diff is a bacteria present in soil, air, water, human and animal feces, and on most surfaces. When ingested, the bacteria does not create a problem unless it grows in abnormally large numbers in the intestinal tract and begins to attack the lining of the intestine.
C. diff bacteria is passed in feces and can be spread to food, surfaces and objects when people don't wash their hands thoroughly.
The colon contains hundreds of different kinds of good bacteria important for our health, including bacteria that suppress the growth of harmful organisms. When you take an antibiotic to treat an infection, the antibiotic may also destroy beneficial bacteria as well as the bacteria that are causing illness. Without enough good bacteria, dangerous bacteria like C. diff can grow out of control and cause harm.
- Bloody diarrhea
- Abdominal pain or cramping
Exams and Tests
A C. diff infection is usually diagnosed by a stool test that detects toxins produced by C. diff. bacteria. If your child has severe symptoms, his/her pediatric GI specialist may recommend a colonoscopy.
- Your child's pediatric gastroenterologist may stop use of the antibiotic that triggered the C. diff infection. In many cases, this is enough to combat the infection.
- Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat C. diff including oral metronidazole and vancomycin.
- Probiotics (supplements containing good bacteria) may be recommended.
Points to Remember
- Antibiotics can kill good bacteria as well as bad bacteria. Reserve the use of antibiotics for times when they are really necessary. Common ailments such as ear infections are often due to viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics.
- If antibiotics are necessary, ask your child's pediatric GI specialist about probiotics, which are supplements that help replace good bacteria.
For More Information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/id_CdiffFAQ_general.html