Feeling Better Faster: Treating Clostridium Difficile Infection

Having a clostridium difficile infection significantly interrupts lives, often keeping people homebound and unable to participate in even the most simple of life's joys.

That was certainly the case for Victoria. She had been suffering from Crohn's Disease for a decade already, and Feb. 14, 2014, her symptoms were even worse. "I couldn't leave the bathroom," she admitted.

No Relief

Victoria, 67-years-old, is from the St. Louis area and had been seeing Leonard Weinstock, MD, for her Crohn's disease for years. A few days after she had lunch with her aunt at a nursing home, she started having diarrhea. When she came to Dr. Weinstock with her new symptoms, he determined it was Clostridium difficile, or C. diff. "I had heard of C. diff because a friend of mine lost one of her friends to C. diff," she said. "So I was scared."

Victoria tried a variety of antibiotics for a few months. "They would work for a little bit, then they wouldn't work anymore, and it was right back to square one. I'd finally feel better, go back to work, and then the symptoms would start again." For most of the 700,000 patients diagnosed with Clostridium difficile (or C. difficile infection) relief can be hard to find. Up to 20 percent of patients have relapsing symptoms or fail antibiotic therapy.

A New Treatment

Fortunately, the Digestive Disease Center at Missouri Baptist Medical Center offers a highly successful treatment for patients, which involves something many people would never imagine, a fecal microbiota transplant. Dr. Weinstock told Victoria about this treatment option.

Bacteria and other microorganisms are always present in the GI tract and many are necessary to maintain good health). Antibiotics can disrupt the balance in the GI tract and allow infectious bacteria like C. diff to take over. A fecal microbiota transplant involves placing good bacteria back into the colon to stop the overgrowth of C. diff. essentially providing a direct probiotic boost. "There's a great need for this procedure," said Dr. Weinstock. "C. diff is a terrible disease and can be fatal. This quick procedure is life-changing and life-saving."

"I thought it sounded gross," said Victoria. "But I would have done anything by that point. I'd had enough."

Finding a Donor

Donors are extensively screened and tested to be sure there are no signs of infection in the blood or stool. Risks of developing autoimmune diseases may be reduced when your donor is a relative. That's why it was a relief when Victoria's 30-year-old daughter agreed to be the donor. "She wanted to make me feel better and she did," said Victoria. "I've been in remission, and I've had no problems since."

"It's embarrassing to explain why I had to miss so much work, but after my transplant, I finally told my boss what was going on…and now I'm back at work."

Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) resolves the infection in roughly 90 percent of all patients. Many patients feel better within days!

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