Clostridium difficile, often called C. difficile or C. diff, is a type of bacterial infection that affects the digestive system. It can cause symptoms such as diarrheastomach painfeverloss of appetite, and others, including life-threatening inflammation of the colon. C. difficile occurs from the use of antibiotic medication and commonly affects older adults. In recent years, C.difficile infections have become more frequent and severe, making treatments harder. 



The most common symptoms of mild to moderate C. difficile infection include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Mild stomach pain and tenderness


The most common symptoms of severe C.difficile infection include:

  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Stomach cramping and severe pain
  • Fever
  • Blood or pus discharge
  • Feeling of sickness
  • Loss of fluids
  • Inability to eat
  • Losing weight
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Kidney failure
  • Increase of white blood cells count



C. difficile bacteria is most commonly associated with hospitals and other health care facilities where a higher percentage of individuals carry the bacteria. An infection can be caused when spores from the bacteria are passed from the human body to different objects and surfaces. If a contaminated object or surface is touched, an individual may ingest the bacteria unknowingly. Usually treatment by antibiotics is recommended to fight infections; however some antibiotics can destroy the normal, healthy bacteria in the digestive system which would normally help protect the body from infection. When this occurs, C. difficile bacteria can spin out of control and multiply, producing toxins in the body that can destroy cells and cause symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pain and others.

Exposure of a new aggressive strain of C.difficile has appeared and produces countless more toxins than any other strains do. This particular strain has caused illness outbursts since the year 2000 and can be more difficult to treat by certain medications.


Risk factors

Factors associated with an increased risk of C.difficule include:

  • Taking antibiotics or other medications
  • Using multiple antibiotics
  • Taking antibiotics for a long time
  • Having a serious illness or condition (inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, weakened immune system)
  • Exposure to environments where germs spread easily (hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities)
  • Exposure to objects where germs spread easily (tables, toilets, sinks, thermometers, telephones)



Complications of C. difficile infections include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Loss of fluids
  • Toxic megacolon (can cause ruptured colon)
  • Bowel perforation (can cause life-threatening infection)
  • Death



A few recommendations for preventing C. difficile may include:

  • Washing hands regularly
  • Cleaning objects and surfaces with products containing bleach
  • Taking precautions in hospitals by wearing disposable gloves and gowns
  • Avoiding unnecessary use of antibiotics