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Clostridium difficile (C.Diff)

What is Clostridium difficile?

It is a bacteria that causes diarrhoea. Most people will recover quite quickly, but in some cases the illness can be severe. This type of diarrhoea can occur when antibiotics are given to treat another infection. Antibiotics reduce both  good and bad bacteria, and when good bacteria are destroyed, some bad ones,  such as Clostridium difficile, normally kept under control by the good, may flourish.

The risk is reduced with simple hygiene procedures, and the effect for a patient can be lessened by quick positive action. Staff, patients, and visitors alike can help. You can help us to control this infection by washing your hands!

There are many different strains of C. difficile, all of which can be treated with antibiotics. The symptoms of the infection can be more severe and last for a longer period of time with the more virulent strains. Patients with any strain of C. difficile may die of complications associated with the disease but the risk is greater with the more virulent strains.

Can it be treated?

Yes. The antibiotics currently taken will be stopped whenever possible and specific antibiotics to treat C. difficile will also be given. Patients are being given live yoghurt (which helps to restore the balance of good bacteria) in their diet as part of their treatment.

How does it happen?

Some people (approximately 3%) have the bacteria present in their bowel. Most of the time, this is harmless. However, some strains of C. difficile are resistant to antibiotics, so when a patient receives a course of antibiotics, these bacteria can flourish. It results in mild or severe diarrhoea. Another way of catching C. difficile is from other people or your surroundings, because, when the bacteria is not in the right environment for it to survive it becomes a “spore” (like a hard seed, but very tiny). Just like a seed, when it reaches the right environment again, it will start to grow.

How will the doctors know I have C. difficile?

A sample of your stools would be sent to the laboratory and C.difficile identified there.

Do I need to be treated in hospital for C. difficile?

No, as many patients in community settings will also have this infection. As long as you are well enough to go home and your diarrhoea has subsided you do not have to wait until it is completely clear. If you feel you would like to go home whilst you still have diarrhoea you will be assessed to see if you are well enough to go home. If you are going to a nursing or residential home situation then it is advised to wait until your symptoms have stopped and have remained so for at least three days.

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