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What is a Clostridium difficile infection?

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Infection with the Clostridium difficile bacteria causes infectious diarrhea, known as Clostridium difficile colitis. While Clostridium difficile, also known as C. difficile, isn't as common as other intestinal bacteria, it is the bacteria responsible for most cases of infectious diarrhea, reports WebMD.

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Mild cases of C. difficile infection cause watery diarrhea for several days. The diarrhea occurs multiple times a day and is often accompanied by a tender and painful abdomen, according to WebMD. Severe cases of C. difficile infection cause fever, bloody stool and weight loss. In this case, the watery diarrhea occurs up to 15 times a day. The diarrhea can prove to be life-threatening, as it can cause intestinal ulcers.

A C. difficile infection is most likely to affect hospital patients or nursing home residents rather than healthy people, notes WebMD. A C. difficile infection can also occur after the administration of a strong, broad-spectrum antibiotic because the normal intestinal bacteria are destroyed, and the patient then becomes vulnerable to infection. Older adults are also at greater risk of developing a C. difficile infection. A C. difficile infection is usually treated with a 10- to 14-day course of metronidazole, fidaxomicin or vancomycin. Most patients also receive extra fluids and probiotic treatment.

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