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Clostridium Difficile

Clostridium Difficile / C.Diff

C.Diff is a bacterium which lives naturally in the gut of around 3% of adults. The bacteria produces spores that is resistant to high temperatures and are very difficult to eliminate. Spores can remain in the environment on clothes, bedding etc for several months or even years.

This virus is spread through contaminated food and objects where individuals have not washed their hands properly. C.Diff doesn't cause problems in healthy people, however if the number of bacteria greatly increases complications can occur. Once the infection spreads it creates toxins which then attack the lining of the intestines. C.Diff often becomes a problem after taking antibiotics for other health conditions which is why most cases happen in a healthcare environment.


  • Symptoms of this infection include:
  • Mild to severe diarrhoea
  • Blood-stained stools
  • Fever
  • Cramps in the abdomen

In rare cases symptoms include:

  • Infection of the lining of the abdomen
  • Blood poisoning
  • Tears in the large intestines

In recent years the number of infections has fallen rapidly, in 2007-2008 there were 55,498 cases reported across England. In 2008-2009 there were 36,095 reported cases, which is a decrease of 35%.


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

Mild or moderate symptoms

With a C.Diff infection the first thing to do is stop taking the antibiotics as they may of caused the infection; this then allows the natural bacteria in the gut to grow back. For mild to moderate symptoms stopping the antibiotics is often enough to clear the infection.

Severe symptoms

For more severe symptoms, antibiotics may be needed to kill the C.Diff bacteria. Which will either be metronidazole or vancomycin, they should ease the symptoms within 2 to 3 days. However, there are possible side effects for using them such as stomach ache and nausea.

Some patients treated for this infection may have a repeat of symptoms and in rare cases surgery may be needed to repair the damage done to the intestines especially if there is a tear.

Find out more about Superbugs caught in Hospitals 

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This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. Please read our medical disclaimer.