Clostridium difficile (c. difficile) is a type of bacteria that can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms like colitis. It is especially common in children who have recently been on antibiotics for a long period of time. Children are also at a higher risk for C.difficile infections if they have been in the hospital, especially for a long time, have a chronic illness, have a history of prematurity, have been taking certain medications to decrease stomach acid, and/or have a problem with their immune system.
C. difficile can be found naturally in many places, from soils to animals to different foods that people eat. Some people carry this bacteria in their intestines and never get sick. But, they can still spread the infection to others. C. difficile bacteria can be spread in feces and in food—especially when people don’t wash their hands completely. The bacteria produce spores that can stay in a room for weeks or months. If you touch a surface that has C. difficile you can pick up this bacteria.
The most common symptoms of mild to moderate C. difficile infection are:
- Watery diarrhea
- Mild abdominal cramping and tenderness
In severe cases of infection, symptoms can include:
- Watery diarrhea 10-15 times a day.
- Abdominal cramping and pain
- Blood or pus in stool
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Swollen abdomen
- Kidney failure
- Enlargement of the colon (toxic megacolon)
- Increased white blood cell count.
C. difficile bacteria can usually be detected in a stool sample using DNA or protein testing. These tests either identify certain genes in C. difficile’s DNA or certain toxins that C. difficile produces. To help confirm a diagnosis of C. difficile, the doctor may examine the inside of the colon. This test, called a colonoscopy, involves inserting a flexible tube with a small camera on one end into the colon to look for areas of inflammation.