A new study published in the journal Nature Microbiology has found that deadly Clostridioides difficile infections may not result from transmission, but from within the infected patient themselves.
Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) is a bacterium that can cause diarrhea and colitis. It is most commonly found in hospitals and nursing homes, but it can also be found in the community.
C. diff infections are usually treated with antibiotics, but they can be difficult to treat and can sometimes be life-threatening.
The new study found that C. diff infections can occur even in patients who have not been exposed to the bacterium from the outside world. This suggests that C. diff infections can be caused by the reactivation of dormant C. diff spores that are already present in the patient’s gut.
Researchers led by Evan Snitkin and Vincent Young from the University of Michigan Medical School and Mary Hayden, of Rush University Medical Center, focused on acquiring samples from each patient within hospital-acquired infections from every patient within the intensive care unit at Rush University Medical Center.
“By systematically culturing every patient, we thought we could understand how transmission was happening. The surprise was that, based on the genomics, there was very little transmission.”
“Something happened to these patients that we still don’t understand to trigger the transition from C. diff hanging out in the gut to the organism causing diarrhea and the other complications resulting from infection,” Snitkin said, according to Futurity.org.
“They are sort of all around us,” says Young. “C. diff creates spores, which are quite resistant to environmental stresses including exposure to oxygen and dehydration… for example, they are impervious to alcohol-based hand sanitizer.”
The study also found that C. diff infections are more likely to occur in patients who have been taking antibiotics. This is because antibiotics can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut, which can allow C. diff to grow and multiply.
The findings of the new study could have implications for the treatment and prevention of C. diff infections. For example, the study suggests that it may be important to screen patients for C. diff spores before they are given antibiotics.
The study also suggests that developing new treatments that target dormant C. diff spores could be a promising way to prevent and treat C. diff infections.
More research is needed to confirm the findings of the new study and to develop new strategies for preventing and treating C. diff infections.
In the meantime, it is important to practice good hygiene to help prevent the spread of C. diff. This includes washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and before eating.