Clostridium difficile (C diff) infection typically resolves within two weeks of starting antibiotics, however, many people become reinfected one to three weeks afterward.
Patients with Clostridium difficile (C diff) infections usually recover within two weeks of starting antibiotic treatment and probiotics.
Many people, however, become reinfected and require additional treatment. Most recurrences occur one to three weeks after stopping antibiotic therapy though some occur up to two or three months later.
Asymptomatic C diff infections usually go away without intervention. When a C diff infection becomes symptomatic, one in every five infections resolves without the need for medication.
- C diff bacteria cannot grow in the air, but they can survive in the environment for long periods by transforming into spores.
- Because spores are extremely difficult to kill even with disinfectants, they may be present on surfaces and equipment even after a thorough cleaning.
5 factors that increase the risk of C diff infection
Each episode of C diff increases the likelihood of a subsequent recurrence. Many patients may have multiple occurrences during their stay in a healthcare facility or must return to a hospital multiple times because of its recurrence.
The risk is that C diff colitis can quickly and unexpectedly escalate into a medical emergency. A person should seek medical attention as soon as they notice any signs of infection.
How do I know if I have a C diff infection?
Clostridium difficile (C diff) is a spore-forming bacterium that is commonly found in the human intestine and can live there without causing any harm.
When the balance of bacteria in the intestine is upset, C diff multiplies and produces toxins, causing diarrhea. Approximately 5 out of 10 people infected with C diff have no symptoms. They can, however, spread the infection to others.
Others could exhibit symptoms, such as:
- Watery diarrhea
- Blood, mucus, or pus in stools
- Foul-smelling diarrhea
Some who are infected develop serious problems with symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Pseudomembranous colitis
- Toxic megacolon
- Colon perforation
- Dehydration from diarrhea
- Organ failure due to septic shock
What are the treatment options for C diff?
Even though Clostridium difficile (C diff) infections are caused by antibiotics, antibiotics are the treatment of choice for C diff and may include:
- Vancocin (Vancomycin)
- Flagyl (Metronidazole)
It can take a long time for the gut microflora to reestablish itself after the treatments. For the next two to eight weeks after the initial infection, the chances of reinfection are still high.
- Prebiotics: Some doctors advise taking probiotics to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.
- These naturally occurring microbes can be found in foods such as yogurt.
- Other medical professionals advise against using probiotics because there is no set standard for the specific microbe formations in each food, and a positive effect cannot be guaranteed.
- Fecal microbiota transplantation: Another person’s feces is introduced to the affected colon. It is possible to achieve a healthy balance of gut bacteria by adding a sample of feces containing healthy microflora.
- Surgery: Surgery is sometimes required to help manage or treat a C diff infection.
- This is uncommon and usually occurs in the case of bowel perforation.
- Surgery is typically considered the last treatment option and is only considered if other forms of treatment and drugs have failed to control the infection.
C diff infections and their complications can be incapacitating, painful, and even fatal. Some infections resolve on their own, but the threat of infection is serious for older individuals.
A few loose stools are not a cause for alarm, but if symptoms persist, a more serious infection may be developing. C diff infection may require tests, such as stool samples or a colonoscopy, to look for pseudomembranous colitis.
Bacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments
Medically Reviewed on 11/24/2021
Image Source: iStock Images
NYU Langone Hospitals. Recovery & Support for Clostridium Difficile Infections. https://nyulangone.org/conditions/clostridium-difficile-infections-in-adults/support#:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FAQs for Clinicians about C. diff. https://www.cdc.gov/cdiff/clinicians/faq.html
WebMD. Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff). https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/clostridium-difficile-colitis