What Are the Risk Factors for Clostridium difficile Infection?


Richard Haupt, MD, MPH, explains the risk factors for Clostridium difficile infection.

Richard Haupt, MD, MPH, vice president of Medical Development at Pfrizer Vaccines, explains the risk factors for Clostridium difficile infection.

Interview Transcript (modified slightly for readability):

"C. difficile is a bacterium and it exists as a spore, and it exists in the environment; it’s really everywhere. It’s well known and most commonly found in health care settings and, therefore, creates a risk for people who are exposed, or are going to have a health care exposure, but, in fact, the bacteria are everywhere. And we can actually ingest it, and that’s how people acquire C. difficile; it lives in the gut. And then, under certain circumstances, it can actually grow and it can elaborate toxins, and it’s those toxins that actually mediate disease. They kill intestinal cells and that can lead to a severe intestinal illness, and so, that’s what C. difficile is.

The risk factors for C. difficile infection are related mostly to the acquisition of the spores themselves, so, actually, ingesting them and having them and becoming colonized with them, and another risk factors is underlying conditions, underlying comorbidities, people who have disease states that cardiopulmonary disease, diabetes, and other conditions like that. And then, the last, most important, is also antibiotic exposure. Because it’s with the use of antibiotics that a person who has C. difficile spores, those antibiotics can cause a change in the microbiome that allows for C. difficile to actually grow in the gut. And, once that happens, those C. difficile bacteria can elaborate toxins, which can cause intestinal damage.”

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