Clostridium difficile, known more commonly as C. difficile, is transmitted through feces when an infected individual practices poor hand hygiene after using the restroom and through the cleanup of soiled surfaces, explains Mayo Clinic. The bacteria also produce hardy spores that people can ingest inadvertently.
Some individuals carry C. difficle without symptoms, notes Mayo Clinic. Other organisms in the digestive tract normally keep the bacteria in check. When carriers take antibiotics, these "good" bacteria may die off, allowing C. difficile to flourish and take over the gastrointestinal system.
The Clostridium difficile toxin causes fever, nausea and profuse, watery diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It may also cause abdominal tenderness and appetite loss. Antibiotic use, an advanced age, long stays in hospitals or other facilities, and recent gastrointestinal surgery increase the risk of developing the illness. So does having a serious underlying illness or being immunocompromised.
C. difficile is commonly treated with the antibiotics Flagyl or vancomycin, explains Mark Cichocki, R.N. for About.com, but the bacteria can be notoriously difficult to eradicate. Some individuals need antibiotic therapies for months before they are cured. Dehydration is a risk due to the diarrhea, and fluids may be needed intravenously if oral intake is not adequate.