What is Clostridium Difficile?

Clostridium Difficile (known as C-Diff) is a bacterium that causes an inflammation in the large intestines (colitis), causing infectious diarrhoea.

The infected stools carry spores (a much more resistant form of the C-Diff cell):

  • They are not killed by alcohol-based hand cleansers or routine surface cleaning.
  • The spores can survive for many weeks, and sometimes months, on objects and surfaces.

The symptoms

The symptoms of a C-difficile infection can range from mild to severe and include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • A high temperature (fever) of above 38ºC (100.4ºF)
  • Painful abdominal cramps

A C-Diff infection can also lead to life-threatening complications such as severe swelling of the bowel from a build-up of gas (toxic megacolon).

Causes

The C-Diff bacteria do not usually cause any problems in healthy people however:

  • C-Diff is an infection that can affect those who have been on antibiotic therapy. Some antibiotics can interfere with the natural balance of normal bacteria in the gut that protects against C-Diff.
  • The spores can also be spread through the air, for example while making the bed.
  • The spores of bacteria are spread by hands of those who come into contact with infected patients or contaminated surfaces. If you touch a contaminated object or surface and then touch your nose or mouth, you can ingest the bacteria.

Treatment

You will only need treatment for a C-Diff infection if you have symptoms. No treatment is needed if the bacteria are living harmlessly in your digestive system.

In many cases where the symptoms are mild, stopping any current antibiotics is often enough to ease the symptoms and clear the infection.

In more severe cases there are a number of alternative antibiotics that can be given to treat the infection.

In ongoing C-Diff cases where antibiotics do not appear to be managing the condition there are other options that may require referrals to other health care providers.

Isolation

Patients that have been diagnosed with C-Diff will be provided with a single (isolation) room for the rest of their admission. This helps prevent the bug from spreading throughout a whole ward and hospital.

Transfers to other hospitals or nursing homes may be delayed until they are no longer displaying symptoms.

Patients may be discharged to their own homes if medically fit.

Visiting

The elderly and the very young may be at higher risk contracting C-Diff if they visit a patient with symptoms of C-Diff (symptomatic).

If visiting other areas of the hospital please do this first and make your visit to a symptomatic patient your last port of call.

If you are visiting a symptomatic patient please remain with the person you are visiting as socialising with other patients may pass on the bug.

Food and drink

Diarrhoea can result in dehydration. It is important that patients drink plenty of fluids.

In order for personal food (eg. fruit or biscuits) not to become contaminated, should ideally be individually wrapped and be stored in the bed side locker.

Visitors and staff are advised not to eat or drink on the ward.

Contact

Infection Control Team
01935 384 401

Review: 06/20
Ref: 12-18-131