Clostridium difficult (C.diff) is a bacterial infection that leads to inflammation of the colon, and is the cause of more than 450,000 infections and nearly 15,000 deaths a year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the “super bug” is easily spread and is common in healthcare settings. In fact, more than 80 percent of C.diff deaths were people 65 or older, with residents of nursing homes especially vulnerable to infection. And hospital stays and especially long-term antibiotic use seem to up the risk of C.diff infection.

“Antibiotics kill off beneficial bacteria in the gut which fight infection, leaving space for C.diff to come in and release its toxins,” explained Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert with Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.

Studies show that more than half of patients receive antibiotics at some point in their stay, and up to 50 percent of antibiotic use is unnecessary. Over-prescribing antibiotics, combined with poor infection control, may allow the spread of C. diff and other bacteria within a facility and to other facilities when a sick patient is transferred, the CDC report speculated in reports.

The CDC report said preventing and controlling C.diff should be a national priority. The infection costs up to $4.8 billion each year in excess health care costs, the agency reported.

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