A person who is healthy has normal flora—otherwise known as "good" bacteria—living in her digestive system. Those flora aid the body in using food for fuel, eliminating wastes and keeping the immune system strong. But there are harmful bacteria, as well, such as Clostridium difficile (C. difficile or C. diff for short), which can multiply in the bowel or intestines. This particular bacteria spore, which originates in soil, is the culprit behind pseudomembranous colitis, or C. Difficile infection, an infection of the large intestine.
Where Did It Come From?
C. difficile is usually present in persons with severe infectious diarrhea. It fosters nosocomial, infectious epidemics in hospitals and similar facilities for several months. Nosocomial infections are infections that one acquires while staying at a health care facility. It is passed from person to person by hand to mouth and environmental surfaces from the rooms of infected patients.
Clostridium difficile can survive underneath fingernails, in wrinkles and on jewelry. Surfaces in medical facilities that may house C. difficile include all parts of the bathroom, faucets, linens, side rails and call buttons.
Cause, Diagnosis and Treatment
Taking antibiotics destroys the normal flora in the digestive system and aids in a C. Difficile infection flare-up. In addition to antibiotics, other factors that can cause pseudomembranous colitis include chemotherapy, recent surgery and a previous history of colitis.
Physicians use a stool culture and/or a colonoscopy to diagnose the infection. It is difficult to diagnose because of antibiotics that cause the flare-ups of the infection.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of pseudomembranous colitis are inflammation and irritation of the colon and sudden attacks of foul-smelling runny diarrhea. Other signs and symptoms include cramping and pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen before the onset of diarrhea, fever, and blood/pus/mucus in the stool of the patient. If there is blood loss, this can result in low blood pressure or shock.
These symptoms can take up to four to 10 days to subside after taking antibiotics Unfortunately, taking antibiotics can also cause Clostridium difficile to appear, so a person must be careful and re-evaluate the question of usefulness of antibiotics when treating pseudomembranous colitis.
Stop the Chain of Infection
Proper hand washing is essential to stop the spread of the disease as the friction of hand washing loosens the spores and sends them down the sink drain. For environmental surfaces, wiping them down with sodium hypochlorite (bleach) is the only effective method to eliminate the infectious spores.
Food and Its Effects
People with pseudomembranous colitis should avoid dairy products and foods with husks. Grapes, seeds, nuts, corn and brown rice can aggravate the lining of the colon and should be omitted from the diet. White rice and bananas, similar to what babies eat, is a mainstay in the diet of someone with pseudomembranous colitis.
Doctors also encourage patients to drink or take probiotic yogurt and acidophilus drinks and capsules. These supplements replenish the lost normal flora that is supposed to be in the intestines, balancing the digestive system and fighting off systemic irregularities. People dehydrated as a result of diarrhea from the infection also need to drink electrolyte-enhanced beverages, such as Smartwater or Gatorade.