Clostridium difficile Infection

In Some Cases, This Bacteria Can Grow In The Intestines After Taking Antibiotics

Clostridium difficile Cell
Clostridium difficile is a type of bacteria that is normally found in the human intestinal tract. There are some circumstances, however, that can cause it to grow out of control and cause diarrhea and other symptoms. Image © DR KARI LOUNATMAA / Getty Images

Clostridium difficile (or C difficile) is a bacteria that normally lives in the large intestine (colon). C difficile may cause inflammation of the colon (colitis) when it becomes too prevalent in the large intestine. This overgrowth of C difficile may take place after a person has taken antibiotics that have killed the helpful bacteria that live in the intestine.

How Do You Get Infected With C difficile?

Some of the antibiotic types that are most associated with increasing the risk of C difficile infection include clindamycin; cephalosporins, monobactams, and carbapenems (CMCs); and fluoroquinolones.

These antibiotics don't necessarily need to be avoided at all costs, but in some cases, a physician may prescribe another antibiotic when a person is considered to be at high risk of developing C difficile infection.

C difficile can be passed from person to person. A person may not have symptoms of having an overgrowth of C difficile, but he may still be able to pass the bacteria on to another person.

C difficile can be found outside the body on many surfaces, and is a special problem in hospitals and nursing homes. The bacteria is resistant to many antibiotics, but can be killed with a 10% chlorine bleach solution.

How Is C difficile Infection Treated?

Although it sounds counter-intuitive, C difficile infection is often treated with more antibiotics. In many cases, a ten-day course of antibiotics is recommended, but in some cases, it could take much longer. The antibiotics most often used to treat C difficile are vancomycin and metronidazole.

One newer treatment that is only available in a handful of areas around the country is a fecal transplant. Fecal bacteriotherapy is the process by which some healthy stool is transplanted into the colon of someone infected with C difficile. The donor screening process is difficult, because the donor must be healthy.

The fecal matter is treated very carefully before it is implanted in the person infected with C difficile. It sounds worse than it is; the fecal matter barely resembles stool when it is transplanted. The transplant is often done via an enema, a colonoscopy or a nasogastric (NG) tube. One review study discovered that fecal bacteriotherapy stopped diarrhea in 87% of the patients who were having recurrent diarrhea because of C difficile.

Does C Difficile Cause Ulcerative Colitis?

No, an infection with C difficile will not cause ulcerative colitis. "Colitis" is a more general term that refers to inflammation of the colon. Colitis can have many causes, including infection with C difficile. Colitis is just one sign of ulcerative colitis, but colitis can also be a sign of many other diseases and conditions including infections. Colitis may be self-limiting: it may go away after the condition that is causing it is treated. Ulcerative colitis is a condition that is lifelong and chronic.


Brown KA, Khanafer N, Daneman N, Fisman DN. "Meta-analysis of antibiotics and the risk of community-associated Clostridium difficile infection." Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2013 May;57:2326-2332. doi: 10.1128/AAC.02176-12. Epub 2013 Mar 11. 21 Oct 2015.

Cammarota G1, Ianiro G, Gasbarrini A. "Fecal microbiota transplantation for the treatment of Clostridium difficile infection: a systematic review." J Clin Gastroenterol. 2014 Sep;48(8):693-702. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000000046. 21 Oct 2015.

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