Does anyone have experience with fighting the C. Diff infection?

6 answers | Last updated: Oct 28, 2016
Steve7701 asked...

Does anyone have experience with fighting the C. Diff. (Clostridia difficile) infection? My dad developed it in the hospital after a hip replacement. It causes bowel incontinence which is of course very hard on my father, who is otherwise recovering well. He left the hospital and came home. After 18 days the infection recurred. He gets the urge for a bowel movement, or sometimes doesn't even feel it coming, and almost instantly it occurs. There is no time to get to the bathroom and no way to hold it. I took him to the emergency room 6 days ago. They put him on Metronidazole (Flagyl) for 7 days. It is better but not gone. What can we do to get this solved once and for all??

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

C. Diff, or Clostridium Difficile, is a intestinal infection that occurs frequently in people who are hospitalized and placed on antibiotics. The name literally means "difficult", as it is a hardy bacteria that lives in our GI tract. Unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to treat, as some of the infections are becoming resistant to some of our antibiotics.

So, your poor father is still having bowel issues, and it is not clear that the Flagyl has helped. What I would recommend is first making an appointment to see his health care provider for an appointment as soon as possible. He may need another stool test for C. Diff, to see if he still has the infection. You can check with the hospital if he had a stool test during his ER visit. If his doctor cannot help, he may need to see a Gastroenterologist for a more thorough work-up (which may include a colonoscopy).

Secondly, the first line of treatment for C. Diff is Flagyl for 10 days (not 7). If the C. Diff doesn't resolve, the next treatment is oral Vancomycin. You do not mention how they treated his C. Diff in the hosptial, but I would assume they did the Flagyl there. So, I am not sure why the ER didn't give Vancomycin as the second course, unless he didn't get treated in the hospital.

In addition, other treatments that are sometimes help with C. Diff are probiotics, which help restore the normal gut bacteria. I would recommend trying yogurts (with live cultures) or kefir, and see if that helps. There are also over the counter probiotic pills available, but they vary in their formulations, so it is difficult to recommend any one brand. You can try them and take them as directed on the bottle.

My last thought is that your father's bowel problems may also be related to his recent hip surgery, and not just from the C. Diff. It may be harder for him to ambulate as fast as he used too, so he may have trouble making it to the bathroom on time. He may also not be eating enough fiber, which helps to bulk up the stool and make it more "substantial" (this way he can feel it). You can add fiber to his diet, or try fiber pills. Fiber drinks are alright, but make sure he drinks plenty of liquids to make the stools pass.

Hope these suggestions help. Good luck!

Community Answers

Karen913 answered...

My 90-year-old father spent many months going between hospitals and rehab. Much of it was due to several bouts of C.Diff, which hit while he was recovering from other conditions. It exhausted (and embarrassed) him so much that he often did not want even me to visit for a week at a time. One thing the hospital did was to give him a rectal catheter during the worst of it. While it was quite uncomfortable, he was grateful for the relief and rest it gave him.

After a few rounds of this, we were told by several hospital staff that he would likely have a recurrence of the C. Diff whenever he was given antibiotics. This was disheartening as he also kept getting pneumonia, which required antibiotic treatment. From then on, we insisted that he be given C. Diff. treatment (usually Vancocin) whenever he was started on antibiotics for something else. Not all doctors were easily persuaded, but you have to insist. We also learned that sometimes several weeks of Vancocin is needed to keep the infection from coming back. In addition, Dad had a supply of Vancocin at home and was told to start taking it at the first sign of severe diarrhea. (We took a stool sample to his doctor at the same time, to test for C. Diff.) Dad took acidophilus daily, as well as Protonix.

It is important not to assume that all diarrhea is from C. Diff. Dad had two bouts of severe bloody diarrhea. The first time, the doctor assumed it was from irritation from the C. Diff. When it recurred a couple months later (this time Dad tested negative for C. Diff.), the doctor did a full G.I. work-up and found that he had colon cancer. (Dad recovered well from the surgery, but succumbed to congestive heart failure several months later.)

Tip: The hospital staff paid little attention to Dad's severely dry lips and mouth when he was kept off food and water for several days while awaiting the G.I. tests. As a diabetic, I always have an OTC dry mouth preparation with me, such as Oral Balance gel. I gave my tube to the nurse and had her ask the doctor if Dad could use it. It is put in the mouth and spread around (also helps on the lips) and lasts for hours. It amazes me that the doctors and nurses don't know about this.

Chels01 answered...

Hi Steve7701. C diff is very serious and severe. I had it for almost a month and flagyl for 10 days didn't work. I got it after taking antibiotics for a mouth infection. I was a very healthy 18 year old, but this infection drug me through hell. My idiot dr gave me another course of flagyl, but only for 7 days (even though it must be taken for 14 to kill all the hatching spores. I was in so much grief that I didn't wait for it to recur again. I did a fecal transplant at home. Nearly one month later, I am back to normal. I have made it my personal mission to raise awareness of fecal transplants and how crucial and life saving it is and I hope people seriously consider this treatment.

Dotto answered...

Hi, I suffered from C=diff which I acquired while in the hosp for pneumonia and bacterial infection. I was put on oral Vancomycin when I came home. I had to take it for 4 weeks. C-diff is very painful and can be most embarrassing. I wish all of you nothing but the best. Thank God I had no additional flare ups.

Real estate woman answered...

I was treated for high fever and rash in hospital with lots of antibiotics via intravenous. After 4 days sent home with 14 days of Clindamicin (which I've since learned encourages C. diff overgrowth). Got C Diff which was stopped by 14 days of Flagel. Next year got diverticulitis and was treated with Cipro (but knew that would start up the C Diff again, which it did. And now I'm Flagel resistant. So 14 days of Vancomycin which I thought was working. But I'm 10 day off it.... And the C Diff is back. I'd like a fecal transplant but not sure how to get it. And will that be the end of this roller coaster? Or will it start all over again if I need an antibiotic in the future?

A fellow caregiver answered...

I'm so sorry to hear your C-diff has come back. I have struggled with this terrible infection also. I have changed my eating habits by eating beans 5 days a week seasoned with miso. (look up health benefits of eating miso) I put it in my beans every day along with fresh garlic and onions. Try drinking chicory root instead of coffee. You may want to start drinking kefir. I pray you get better, I know your struggles. Good Luck