Clostridium Difficile

This page will provide you with general information about Clostridium difficile. For further details, you should speak to your consultant.

What is it clostridium difficle?

Our body is full of bacteria. These bacteria exist both on and inside our body; some bacteria is good and beneficial for our overall health, while others are harmful and can cause us to feel unwell. Clostridium difficile (C-diff) is one form of bacterium which forms only in places where there is no oxygen. C-diff exists in two-thirds of children and 3 in every 100 adults with a strong immune system. Highly-resistant cells (spores) are created by C-diff and they can exist outside of the body for many months, resulting in a C-diff infection that can be spread easily (see figure 1). C-diff is often the root cause of hospital patients contracting diarrhoea. It often occurs as a result of people taking certain antibiotics which disrupt the balance of bacteria within the bowl, enabling C-diff to grow. C-diff releases a toxin which is harmful to the bowel lining and this causes diarrhoea. Other symptoms of C-diff are a high temperature, cramps in the stomach, and feeling or being sick. 

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Who is most at risk?

You are most at risk of contracting a C-diff infection if you:

  • Are over 65
  • ‚ÄčAre ill on a regular basis
  • Have recently undergone bowel surgery
  • Been in hospital for a few weeks

People with a good immune system are generally not at risk of getting an infection. The majority of C-diff cases occur in nursing homes and hospitals, and typically involve people who have been into hospital.

How can I prevent C-diff from spreading?

The spores created by C-diff spread easily by people who are suffering from diarrhoea. These spores, which are easily spread to hands, items and surfaces, cannot be killed through the use of alcohol hand gel. To help limit spreading, you should:

  • Wash your hands frequently using soap and water.
  • Make sure all members of the healthcare team have washed their hands before treating you

I think I may have C-diff. How do I know for sure?

If the reason for your diarrhoea is unknown, the healthcare team will ask for a sample of your faeces to send off to the lab for analysis.

What treatment options are available?

In some cases, it is possible to treat the infection simply by stopping taking the antibiotics which caused the C-diff. However, your healthcare team will advise you on whether or not you should stop taking the medication. You will normally have to take antibiotics which will kill the C-diff in your bowel and/or stop the bacterium from growing. On average it takes 2-3 days for the medication to work. Some patients will have to have surgery in order to repair sections of their bowel that have been damaged by the C-diff infection.


References: EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.


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