A couple of new developments on the C. difficile front should be encouraging news to anyone who is familiar with this potentially deadly bacterial infection. You might also know it as CDI, or Clostridium difficile infection.
First, scientists from UCLA and the University of Texas have been looking at possible cellular defense mechanisms against the two toxins that are released into the gut whenever C. difficile germs are growing in number. The scientists believe that human cells in the gut are capable of releasing molecules that will knock down these toxins, and that the cells can put up a fight through a drug-induced process called protein s-nitrosylation.
The process is seen as a much-needed new therapeutic approach toward an infection that often resists treatment with antibiotics. As of August 2011, the research team was ready to conduct clinical trials on humans, after successful trials on animals.
Second, the fight against C. difficile continues with at least three different research projects that show the effectiveness of fecal microbiota transplants for those patients whose infections keep recurring. That’s right -- fecal material is transplanted into the patient’s body, usually by colonoscopy or by an infusion into the rectum.
Though it may sound unpleasant, the evidence suggests it can quickly stop C. difficile-related diarrhea and may eventually prove useful in reversing inflammatory bowel disease. The introduction of healthy fecal bacteria can restore balance to a digestive system wracked by CDI, the experts said.
The majority of C. difficile infections occur in hospital or nursing home settings, often because of poor hygiene. Overuse of antibiotics poses another problem, as the body loses the strains of bacteria that could normally fend off C. difficile.
In the United States, hundreds of thousands of people acquire C. difficile infections each year, with fatalities numbering between 15,000 and 20,000, according to an April 14, 2009, article in The New York Times. The symptoms include moderate to severe diarrhea, fever, nausea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and, in some cases, colitis.
There are two potent antibiotics on the market to treat C. difficile infections, but up to 20 percent of patients experience a return of symptoms within a few weeks, said ScienceDaily.
Things are looking up however. In addition to the possibility of new, untraditional treatments for C. difficile infections, there also may be new screening tests and antibiotics on the horizon.
“New Way to Treat Common Hospital-Acquired Infection: Novel Approach May Offer Treatment for Other Bacterial Diseases.” ScienceDaily. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110821141128.htm
“Colonoscopic FMT effective in treating IBD, C.difficile-associated diarrhea.” News-Medical.Net. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.
“Stomach Bug Crystallizes an Antibiotic Threat.” The New York Times. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.
Reviewed November 22, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith