Clostridium Difficile (CDF) and Crohn’s: What’s the Connection?
Our bodies are teeming with friendly microorganisms, especially our digestive tract. In a healthy person, the number of good microbes, which protect the body from harm, far exceeds bad microbes, such as bacteria and viruses. When something disrupts this delicate balance, however, it causes problems.
Researchers have long suspected that microbes may cause many intestinal disorders, and one microbe in particular is of special concern to people who have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It's called Clostridium Difficile, or C. Difficile, or, more simply, CDF. CDF is a parasite that depresses the immune system. It essentially wears it down by constantly stimulating it and triggering its protective mechanism. CDF thrives in the large intestine and CDF infection leaves you vulnerable to other unfriendly microbes. In one study, most CDF-infected patients had IBD colon involvement.
CDF is actually common. Two to five percent of the world's population has this parasite. It can cause severe diarrhea and other complications in the large intestines in people who take long-term antibiotics, which kill good bacteria as well as bad.
Unfortunately, people often contract CDF infections in the hospital. In fact, the majority of IBD patients-76 percent-get CDF when they are an outpatient. People with inflamed intestines, and especially those who have reconstructed ileoneal pouches, are particularly vulnerable. CDF infection creates a high risk for hospitalization and colectomy in IBD patients. Even more concerning is the increasing incidence of CDF infection. In the past five years CDF incidence has doubled in North America and affects the IBD population at even higher rates.
The CDF parasite mimics and precipitates an IBD flare. IBD patients who take corticosteroids to manage their disease need concurrent antibiotic treatment to prevent poor outcomes.
There is some evidence that probiotic therapy is beneficial in treating CDF infection. Probiotics are digestible, good bacteria. When consumed, they restore the normal balance of microflora in the intestine. Clinical trials are underway to study the effectiveness of probiotics in relieving symptoms of Crohn's disease and inducing remission.
Experts recommend that physicians who treat patients with IBD flares also evaluate them for possible CDF infection.
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