Intestinal infection can be caused due to various pathogens like bacteria, viruses, fungi/yeast, intestinal parasites, or worms. This article provides some information on the intestinal infection caused due to a bacterium known as Clostridium difficile.
There are a number of pathogens that can cause intestinal infections in humans. In fact, some of them normally reside in our intestines. There are certain bacteria that even aid in the normal functioning of our system and promote digestive health, whereas others are harmful for the body and cause infections.
Clostridium difficile, is one such bacterium, naturally residing in the body. This anaerobic bacterium is present in the bowels of most infants, as well as adults. It generally causes no harm to the body as its action is controlled by the beneficial bacteria present in the gut. However, the prolonged use of certain antibiotics could destroy the beneficial bacteria, resulting in an imbalance of microbial flora in the intestine. Now, it is due to this imbalance that Clostridium difficile enter and multiply in the gut. These bacteria produce certain toxins that can cause inflammation of the lining of the intestines.
The colon or the large intestine, is a large tube-like structure that connects the small intestine with the anus. It is responsible for the final stages of the digestive process such as absorbing water from the digested food, and storing undigested matter till it is eliminated from the body. There are several helpful and harmful types of bacteria present in the colon. When there is a change in the balance of the bacteria due to some reason, Clostridium difficile is able to enter the colon. Once it enters the large intestine, it rapidly multiplies there, and releases toxic chemicals that harm the intestine.
Clostridium difficile is present in two forms – an active form that can cause intestinal infections and a noninfectious, spore form. The active form is unable to survive in the environment for a long period of time, however, the spore form can survive for prolonged periods. These spores are generally found in hospitals, nursing homes, and health care centers. These spores are dormant outside the body, but once they are ingested by a person, they transform into the active, infectious form. The infection due to this bacterium is the most common cause of hospital-acquired diarrhea. However, not everybody infected with this bacterium develops colitis or inflammation of the colon. Many children and adults may just act as carriers of the bacteria. Newborns, elderly, and the people who consume certain antibiotics, as well as those with a weak immune system have an increased risk of being infected with this bacteria strain.
The symptoms may vary, depending on the severity of the bacterial infection in stomach. It generally begins with nausea, vomiting, low-grade fever, and loose and watery stools or a mild diarrhea. The person may also experience mild abdominal cramps and tenderness. In extreme cases, a high fever followed by severe diarrhea and stomach pain may be experienced.
A clostridium infection may be diagnosed by blood tests or other laboratory tests. The most reliable way to diagnose the condition is by a test that detects the toxins produced by the bacteria in the feces of the person. The treatment for infection caused by this pathogen aims primarily at replacing the lost fluids, and preventing dehydration. This can be achieved by simple antidiarrheal medicines. However, in most cases, antibiotics may be needed to eradicate the bacteria. Other supportive therapies to replace the lost body fluids include oral rehydration therapy and intravenous therapy. Probiotics that contain the beneficial bacteria can also help in restoring the balance of bacteria in the person’s colon.
It is advisable to take the necessary precautions to prevent any kind of bacterial diseases. Furthermore, maintaining a good personal hygiene is the best way to keep all the infections away. However, on observation of the aforementioned symptoms, it is recommended to consult the concerned doctor as soon as possible, so as to avoid any further complications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.