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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

c diff

C diff - (clostridia difficile) infection is the bane of the existence for patients(and their doctors) who take long term antibiotics for Lyme disease. The infection occurs when normal gut flora are destroyed by antibiotics clearing the way for the opportunistic bacteria to take hold.

The biosphere of the GI tract is composed of trillions of micro-organisms including a wide variety of bacteria, fungi and parasites. Destruction of these "good bacteria" clears the way for c diff, previously contained within a narrow niche of the overall ecosystem of the gut flora, to disseminate and cause disease. The infection can be mild or severe, at times even life threatening.

Although c diff may be a naturally occurring part of the gut flora, infection may be introduced externally through spores or infected individuals. Even in these cases an intact gut flora helps to prevent the development of clinical disease.

So what are these good bacteria? Our bodies are colonized with massive quantities of micro-organisms. These bacteria/organisms may be parasitic or symbiotic. Parasites live off the land, offering nothing in return. Symbionts on the other hand can be either commensal (neutral) or mutualistic: something positive is provided to both the bacteria and the host.

One hears a lot about the beneficial effects of "good" bacteria. It turns out that some bacteria are good and beneficial to our immune systems

Good bacteria may: synthesize and excrete vitamins, prevent the colonization of pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria, provide natural antibiotic effects and aid in the production of natural antibodies (amongst others).

There are two take home points (yet to be made).

Some antibiotics are more commonly associated with c diff and some probiotics may help prevent the disease.

Quinolones such as Levaquin are highly associated with development of c diff. In addition, because of resistance, these agents appear to be associated with more virulent strains of c diff. Cephalosporins are more highly implicated. For example: Ceftin and Omnicef are more frequently associated with c diff then drugs from the penicillin family like amoxicillin. Clindamycin is also highly associated with c diff. This knowledge can help direct the prescription of the safest antibiotics.

In a published clinical study a proprietary mix(yogurt drink)of bacterial probiotics: L casei, L bulgaricus and S thermophilus has been shown to decrease the frequency of c diff. In addtion, the probiotic S boulardii, yeast based, may form a barrier which protects the gut.

Please take your probiotics. C diff can lead to sepsis, emergency surgery and even death. Treatments are available (Flagyl/Vancomycin), but they are not always effective. And, more virulent strains of c diff are starting to appear. More importantly, c diff tends to recur. This can make ongoing treatment very challenging to say the least.

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