Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Superbug, Clostridium Difficile, Becoming New Health Threat

In hospitals around the country, a new threat is lurking. Clostridium Difficile or C. Diff isn't a household name but is growing into a new epidemic needing to be dealt with. The bacterium is becoming resistant to antibiotics and disinfectants.

Sunnyvale, CA - Clostridium Difficile, or C. Diff has been around for some 30 years but in the last handful of years has begun to spread through hospitals across the country, in what's being considered an epidemic.

According to a recent study, at least 7000 patients are suffering with a C. Diff infection daily. It's been estimated that 300 will die from this superbug. Clostridium difficile is a bacteria that causes symptoms like "diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon." It is found frequently in older adults that are under hospital care or residing in long-term care facilities. It typically shows up after a round of antibiotics.

Dr. Fred Tenover of Cephid, a Sunnyvale company that has developed a DNA test to spot the most toxic strains of C. Diff, headed-up research into drug-resistant germs at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He's found that C. Diff a is able to form a spore that is resistant to both disinfectants and antibiotics.

Since this bacterium is resistant to disinfectants, doctors and nurses end up carrying the germ from room to room unknowingly. In some hospitals, they have begun to isolate sick patients to keep the bacterium from spreading. As well, they have discovered that wiping the room and equipment with bleach seems to be killing the C. Diff bacteria.

However, killing this bacteria in patients is becoming difficult. C. Diff is quickly mutating so that it's resistant to common antibiotics.

Dr. Jan Winetz, at the Good Samaritan Hospital, is directing clinical trials on a new drug called "Par 101" which has been created just for C. Difficile bacteria. It is a naturally-occurring compound that can attack the bacteria inside the intestines.

Double-blind clinical trials with Par 101 are taking place across the country
and while the results are not yet available, Dr. Winetz says some intriguing
patterns are emerging.

It appears that finding a drug to stop this superbug in its tracks is critical. It's believed by epidemiologists that C. Diff is quickly becoming the next "serious health threat to hit hospitals in decades".