What is "C. diff," and why is it called a deadly superbug?
Australian health experts are warning the public through the media that people are at risk of being exposed to the deadly C diff bug, which may not be detected in routine testing.
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Brisbane Times spoke to Thomas Riley, a professor of Microbiology at the University of Western Australia.
Prof Riley is an expert in Clostridium difficile, or C diff, a common bug in various strains. The C diff can cause serious digestion problems that can be fatal. He told Brisbane Times there may have been a "massive under-reporting" of the C diff incidences in Australia.
"I'm really scared about this. I think we are heading for a very dark time, I'm afraid," he told the paper.
Australia Health Warning: What you need to know about the deadly C diff
1. Clostridium difficile or "C. diff" is a species of bacteria that causes severe diarrhea and other intestinal problems.
2. C. diff is the most serious cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). It can lead to a severe inflammation of the colon, which is called pseudomembranous colitis.
3. C. diff becomes harmful when the body's gut flora (situated in the intestine) has been messed by antibiotics, typically in a hospital during treatment, i.e. broad-spectrum antibiotics.
4. C. diff rarely resides naturally in people's guts. When the gut becomes overpopulated with this type of bacteria, bloating and diarrhea may develop. Symptoms include abdominal pain. Infection can lead to toxic megacolon, a life-threatening condition.
5. Among those infected by superbug strains of C. diff, the fatality rate is somewhere between 6 and 30 per cent, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
6. The C. diff can produce tough spores that can survive outside the human body.
7. Everyone is advised to carefully wash hands and food to preventing C. diff infection.
8. Unnecessary antibiotics should be avoided to protect the body's gut flora.
9. When in doubt, make a specific request for a C. diff testing.
10. Avoid ignoring "common" stomach bugs.
Professor Riley said a routine testing of C diff strains was urgently needed in Australia.
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