Symptoms of C. difficile colitis include watery diarrhea that may contain blood and pus, explains Mayo Clinic. These episodes may occur anywhere between 3 and 15 times a day, depending on the severity of the infection, and are often accompanied by severe abdominal pain and cramping, fever, dehydration and nausea. Weight loss, appetite loss and abdominal swelling may also be present. It is important to seek medical attention if C. difficile colitis is suspected, as untreated it can lead to potentially severe complications in some patients.
C. difficile infection results when the naturally occurring bacterium, Clostridium difficile, grow out of control from something affecting the balance of helpful and harmful bacteria in the colon, notes WebMD. As the bacteria grow out of control, they secrete toxins that attack the intestinal lining, causing the symptoms of colitis.
The use of powerful, broad-spectrum antibiotics increases the risk of C. difficile colitis, according to Cleveland Clinic. Other risk factors include abdominal surgery, immunosuppression, older patient age and lengthy hospital stays. The bacteria can often be found on counters, floors, door handles and other areas of patients' hospital rooms or homes, and can be transferred from one person to another via hands and clothing. This may occur even after the room is disinfected.
Metronidazole, brand name Flagyl, and vancomycin, brand name Vancocin, are the primary antibiotics used to treat C. difficile, states Mayo Clinic. Both are taken by mouth. A third antibiotic, fidaxomicin, brand name Dificid, may also be used, though it is considerably more expensive than either vancomycin or metronidazole. In especially severe or recurrent cases, fecal transplants and probiotic therapy may also be considered.