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Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is one of many types of bacteria that are found in the colon (bowel). CDI occurs when antibiotics kill other bowel bacteria and allow C. difficile to overgrow. As C. difficile grows, it produces toxins. These toxins can damage the bowel, causing diarrhea and other intestinal problems. Sometimes, C. difficile causes more serious problems that require hospitalization and, in rare instances, can cause death.
C. difficile is spread in stool (bowel movements) and can contaminate surfaces such as toilets, commodes, handles, bathing tubs, and electronic rectal thermometers. After touching these items with your hands and then touching your mouth without washing your hands, you can become infected. Soiled hands can also spread C. difficile to other surfaces. The ability of C. difficile to form spores allows the bacteria to survive in the environment for weeks or months. Healthcare workers can spread the bacteria to other patients or contaminate surfaces by touching them.
Your risk is higher if you:
See your health care provider. Symptoms of CDI may include:
If you have symptoms of CDI, your doctor will ask for a sample of your stool. A laboratory will test the stool to see if C. difficile toxins are present.
Your health care provider may prescribe an antibiotic. Be sure take it exactly as directed and finish all doses. If you were taking antibiotics when the CDI developed, that antibiotic may be stopped by your health care provider. (See Quick Facts about Antibiotic Use and Antibiotic Resistance at http://www.in.gov/isdh/21166.htm). If diarrhea persists or comes back, contact your health care provider.
To reduce your risk of developing CDI, you should do the following:
For more information, please refer to:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/id_Cdiff.html
This page was last reviewed on October 7, 2008