Clostridium difficile is a bacterium better known as C. diff. and it is becoming increasingly common. Although it can cause an infection which is usually relatively easy to treat, it is a bacterium that can survive for long periods of time in the environment such as around toilets and can also be spread in the air. This means that it is often present in hospital settings. The spores can be removed by thorough cleaning with water and bleach based detergents. Cleaning agents without bleach often do not kill these bacteria. Good levels of hygiene in hospitals and other healthcare settings such as nursing homes are therefore vital in reducing the number of infections with this bacterium.
Infection with C. diff. can cause an illness called pseudomembranous colitis and the most common symptom of this is diarrhoea. It usually occurs when a person is taking antibiotics that disturb the normal bacterial balance in the gut. Friendly bacteria are killed off by the antibiotic and the C. diff. can take hold. This is unfortunately not only a condition that is occurring in hospital but now out in the community as well in otherwise healthy people. A person with this condition will feel unwell with fevers, cramps and diarrhoea. In some rare cases more serious complications develop and these can be life-threatening. Treatment is with antibiotics and adequate fluid intake. Taking probiotic drinks whilst on antibiotics or when C. diff. develops might be beneficial.
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