What Can I Do About C. diff?

A patient came to me recently after finishing her 2nd course of antibiotic treatment for Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection. Despite some temporary relief during while taking the medication, her symptoms were beginning to return to the same level of intensity that she was experiencing before the treatment. The patient’s gastric distress was so severe that she barely had the ability to function at work, having to take both prescription and OTC pain relievers just to get through the day. She was reluctant to go through another round of antibiotics, since they weren’t giving her any relief, and were causing other side-effects as well.

In most cases, C. diff infections are acquired in hospitals or long-term care facilities, especially in patients who have been taking antibiotics.  However, due to an increase in antibiotic resistance, more and more patients who are otherwise healthy, and not in a hospital setting, are acquiring C. diff infections.  The patient in question fits into this category-she is young, active, and doesn’t have a history of any serious medical complaints.

Fortunately, Saccharomyces boulardii exists as a viable treatment option for C. diff infections.  Saccharomyces boulardii (SB) is a non-pathogenic strain of yeast that is isolated from lychee and other tropical fruits.  Since it is a yeast, rather than a bacteria, it’s not susceptible to being affected by antibiotics, as are other beneficial microorganisms within the intestine.  SB has been proven to effectively treat C. diff infections, and may prevent the recurrence of C. diff infections by up to 50%.  This is especially important for patients undergoing immunosuppressive therapy for inflammatory bowel disease, along with those in a hospital or long-term care setting.  Given the evidence, it should be standard practice for doctors to be recommending SB for at-risk patients, or those with an active infection.  Unfortunately, I’m not seeing it done nearly enough!

In the instance of the aforementioned patient, a week-long course of treatment with SB completely resolved her gastrointestinal symptoms.  Repeat stool testing showed no sign of C. diff, and other infections were ruled out as a precaution.  Frankly, I was even amazed at how effective the treatment was, given the nature of most C. diff infections!  If you’re someone who is potentially at risk of acquiring C. diff, just know that drugs aren’t the only available treatment option.  Tell your doctor that you’ve read about the effectiveness of SB, and make sure you start taking it ASAP!

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