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C. difficile Infection

Prevention and Treatment

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Updated April 22, 2014

How is C. diff Infection Treated?

Treated for C. diff infection has to be two-fold; treat the symptoms and treat the cause. Unfortunately, C. diff can prove very difficult to treat. In fact, some people are treated over the course of several months to a year or more. Currently, a big concern surrounds the emergence of a strain of C. diff that is resistant to current therapy. This very severe form of C. diff can be fatal if treatment is not successful. Treatment for C. diff includes:

  • Antibiotics such as Flagyl (the most common treatment) and Vancomycin (stronger and more effective, especially against resistant strains).

  • Oral fluids such as water and electrolyte replacement solutions are necessary because the diarrhea from C. diff can cause profound dehydration very quickly, especially in the elderly and infants and children. If oral fluid can’t keep up with fluid losses, the person is often admitted to the hospital for intravenous replacement of those fluids lost to dehydration.

  • Pain relief can be used but should be used with caution. Masking undiagnosed abdominal pain can be dangerous and delay diagnosis of potentially serious illnesses. In many patients, over-the-counter medications like Tylenol can be used to relieve mild to moderate pain as well as fever. Narcotics should be used with caution because of the effect they have on gastric function, and Motrin should be avoided because of the irritation it would cause to an already-irritated GI tract.

How Can the Spread of C. diff Be Prevented?

Washing your hands is the primary way to prevent the spread of C. diff from person to person.

  • When to Wash Your Hands

    • After any personal hygiene, especially after using the bathroom or blowing your nose.

    • After handling any contaminated or potentially contaminated items.

    • In the health care setting, before and after direct patient care.

    • Before eating.

    • Before preparing sterile items in the health care setting.

    • Whenever a person you have been in contact with is suspected to have a C. diff infection.

  • How to Wash Your Hands

    • Wash every surface of your hands with soap and water with at least 15 seconds of friction before rinsing.

    • Important Fact – While alcohol-based handrub cleansers are effective in killing most bacteria, they are NOT effective in killing C. diff spores and therefore should not be used when caring for or coming in contact with people who have or are suspected of having a C. diff infection.

Sources:

  1. Canadian Association of Gastroenterology Clinical Affairs."Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD) and Proton Pump Inhibitor Therapy." Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology. 01 Jun 2005; Vol. 19; No. 6.

  2. University of Michigan Department of Infection Control."Clostridium difficile Prevention Protocol." . 01 Feb 2007.

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