Clostridium difficile

About C. difficile

What is Clostridium difficile (C. difficile or C. diff)?

C. diff is one of the many types of bacteria that can be found in feces (bowel movement).

Back to top

What is Clostridium difficile infection (CDI)?

For most people, C. difficile does not pose a health risk. When C. difficile bacteria grows in the bowel, it produces toxins. These toxins can damage the bowel and cause diarrhea, causing a disease known as Clostridium difficile- associated Disease (CDI). The effects of CDI are usually mild but sometimes can be more severe. Symptoms can range from mild or severe diarrhea to high fever, abdominal cramping, abdominal pain and dehydration. In severe cases, surgery may be needed, and in extreme cases CDI may cause death.

Back to top

What causes Clostridium difficile infection (CDI)?

C. difficile associated disease (CDI) can sometimes occur when antibiotics are prescribed. Antibiotics work by killing off bacteria – the bad bacteria – but also good bacteria. Without the presence of the typical “good” bowel bacteria, the C. difficile bacteria may start to grow and produce toxins that can cause CDI.

Back to top

What are the Risk Factors for CDI?

Certain people are at increased risk for acquiring CDI. These risk factors include :

Additional risk factors that predispose some people to develop more severe disease include :

Back to top

How Will Your Doctor Know That You Have CDI?

If you have symptoms of CDI, your doctor will ask for a sample of your watery stool. The laboratory will test the stool to see if C. difficile toxins are present.

Back to top

How is CDI Treated?

Treatment depends on how sick you are. People with mild symptoms may not need treatment. For more severe disease, antibiotics are required. Treatment of patients with CDI should be initiated based on the individual patient risk factors and symptoms. Appropriate treatment will be determined by the patient’s attending doctor.

Back to top

How Does CDI Spread?

When a person has CDI, the bacteria in the stool can contaminate surfaces such as toilets, handles, bedpans, or commode chairs. When touching these items our hands can become contaminated. If we then touch our mouth without washing our hands, we can become infected. Our soiled hands can also spread the bacteria to other surfaces.

By always washing your hands and practicing good hygiene, you can greatly reduce your chances of picking up any bacteria – not just C. difficile.

Back to top

What happens if I get CDI while I’m a patient in the hospital?

You will be put on special precautions until you are free from diarrhea for at least two days. (All patients with diarrhea, not only those with C. difficile, should be put on these special precautions). Your activities outside the room may be restricted. All health care staff who enter your room must wear a gown and gloves. Everyone MUST clean their hands when leaving your room.

Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom and before eating. Cleaning hands is the most important way for everyone to prevent the spread of C. difficile and other germs. As well, a thorough cleaning of your room and equipment will be done to prevent spread of the infection. Ask your visitors to check in with nursing staff if they have not done so already.

Back to top

What Should I Do at Home?

Healthy people like your family and friends who are not taking antibiotics are at very low risk of getting CDI.

Hand hygiene

Wash your hands for at least 15 seconds with soap and water :

Cleaning the house

Use an all purpose household cleaner. Follow the directions on the label, and :

Cleaning clothes/other fabric

Wash clothes/fabric separately if they are heavily soiled with feces :

Cleaning dishes

Regular cleaning – use the dishwasher or clean by hand with soap and water.

It is very important that you take all your medication as prescribed by your doctor. You should not use any anti-diarrheal drugs from the drugstore that will stop your diarrhea. If diarrhea persists or comes back, contact your doctor.

For More Information

Call ServiceOntario, Infoline at 1-866-532-3161
In Toronto, 416-314-5518
TTY 1-800-387-5559
In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282
Hours of operation : 8:30am - 5:00pm