Childhood Factors May Predispose Adults to Clostridium difficile Infection

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Childhood and infancy factors have been linked to a predisposition to developing Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection, the leading cause of healthcare-associated diarrhea, according to new research being presented at the American College of Gastroenterology’s 78th annual scientific meeting in San Diego.

According to a survey, data suggests that being born at home, avoiding antibiotics during infancy and childhood, and being breast fed appear to be protective against C. difficile in adulthood. The anonymous 20-question survey was submitted by more than 200 patients from medicine inpatient wards and gastroenterology and infectious disease outpatient clinics. The survey was also mailed to patients who have had C. difficile in the past.

Much research is currently being done on the gut microbiota, the microbial population living in the digestive tract, and its role in health and disease. Lead author Ana Maria Crissien, MD, and her colleagues from Scripps Clinic and Green Hospital, believe that factors influencing the human microbiome at birth and early childhood can influence the microbiome years later.

“Although more studies need to be done to confirm our data, this survey was able to show the influence factors of infancy and childhood that may predispose adults to the development of C. difficile infection. The microbiome is a very active area of research and we will continue to collect data and plan a prospective study to look at the influences on the microbiome and the development of C. difficile,” says Crissien.

The authors note that decisions regarding birth methods, infant feeding, administration of antibiotics and hospitalization in infants and children should be based on the maternal and infant health and not scientific surveys.

C. difficile infection is due to a toxin producing bacterium that causes a more severe form of antibiotic diarrhea. The spectrum of disease ranges from mild diarrhea to severe colon inflammation that can even be fatal. In the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the number and severity of cases of C. difficile infection in the United States. The College has more about the management and prevention of C. difficile in its clinical guidelines.

Source: American College of Gastroenterology

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