Causes and Diagnoses

Clostridium Difficile Infection Causes and Diagnoses

The Clostridium difficile (C. diff) bacterium causes the illness commonly known as C. diff infection. C. diff is shed in stool and is spread when someone touches a contaminated surface (such as a bathroom fixtures, bed rails or bed linens) and then touches their mouth or other mucus membrane. This can happen when eating, cooking or using the bathroom without washing your hands after contamination.

C. diff spores can linger for a very long time. In fact, they have been shown to survive on hard surfaces for up to five months.

Diagnosing C. diff

A diagnosis of C. diff infection will begin with a physical exam and discussion of your symptoms. Your physician may also order:

  • Stool test: You may be asked to give stool samples to test for infection in the digestive tract.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan combines X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed cross-sectional images of tissue, and bone and blood vessels.
  • Colonoscopy: Your physician may order an examination of your colon with an endoscope (a long, thin tube with a camera at the end) to look for thickening perforation of the colon wall.

Preventing the spread of C. diff

C. diff is a particularly hardy infection, but you can take steps to prevent yourself and others from getting the infection, including:

  • Wash your hands before and after eating, going to the bathroom and visiting someone who has the C. diff infection.
  • Use soap and water, which works better to kill C. diff than hand sanitizer.
  • If someone is infected, clean all surfaces with a solution containing bleach.
  • Wear disposable gloves and take all necessary precautions when visiting someone who has C. diff.
  • Avoid excessive or unnecessary antibiotic use, which can encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.

Diagnostic Tests