Powerful superbug, resistant to antibiotics, is spreading

There’s another superbug that may be harder to treat than MRSA, but parents shouldn’t panic. They should, however, keep antibiotic use to a minimum.

Clostridium difficile, called C. diff, is a multidrug-resistant bacterium that causes diarrhea and, in serious cases, a sometimes fatal inflammation of the colon.

A study released by the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network found that infection rates of C. diff have increased in 28 community hospitals. C. diff infections have now surpassed the drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA.

Dr. Tina Tan, a physician at Children’s Memorial Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases, says she has seen more cases of C. diff infections, particularly in those who have not recently been in the hospital. Children age 1-4 are most likely to become sick with C. diff, she says.

There’s no way to tell whether a child has C. diff unless the stool is tested, she says. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea for several days and perhaps blood in the stool.

Tan says patients and physicians can help prevent the superbug by avoiding the use of antibiotics unless necessary.

Antibiotics take away the good bacteria in the intestines, she says, “and when you eliminate the flora that’s meant to be there, you allow C. diff to grow. We’ve got to move away from that.”

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