It Took Half A Century To Develop A C. Difficile Treatment

It has taken 50 years, but a new drug has been released as a treatment for infections caused by Clostridium difficle. The new drug, called Dificlir, is an antibiotic treatment that has been shown to cut the chances of relapse from this type of infection in half.

C. diff, a gram-positive bacteria that can cause a serious and potentially fatal infection of the colon, can be found naturally in the gut flora of approximately 3% of adults and two-thirds of children. As a part of the body’s natural flora, the bacteria can live without causing any problems. For those who have experienced the painful and explosive symptoms of such infections, which include extreme diarrhea and abdominal pain, the release of this new drug is great news. It is also significant considering that C. diff has become more virulent over the past few decades, evolving into a key player in the emerging threat of antibiotic resistance.

The new drug works by preventing C. diff bacteria from producing the toxins that cause the disease and its immobilizing symptoms. By preventing such symptoms, the drug inadvertently prevents others from contracting the disease, as microbes are less likely to spread in the absence of the explosive diarrhea. It has taken over ten years to develop this new type of antibiotic, which is also called fidaxomicin.

Several studies have demonstrated that this new drug has a similar cure rate as vancomycin, the go-to drug typically used to treat the illness, and appears to work significantly better than vancomycin at preventing the disease from recurring. This is an important step in the fight against antibiotic resistance, as it not only presents a new option, but also kills C. diff without disrupting the good intestinal flora.[1]

In recent years, the threat of antibiotic resistance has become more apparent. Due in part to antibiotic misuse and/or overuse, several new strains of various bacteria have emerged that are resistant to commonly used antibiotic treatments. While this new drug is a great new way to combat antibiotic resistant strains of C. diff, it is important that we keep in mind the proper use of the drug in order for it to remain a viable option in the future.

Preventing antibiotic resistance also involves taking caution with animals.[2] It is estimated that nearly 29 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use in food animals in 2009. Antibiotics are used for non-therapeutic purposes with animals such as cattle to increase the profit margin by preventing them from catching diseases while in close confinement, and also by helping them grow to market weight faster. Such practices have been found to promote antibiotic resistance.

While it is an obvious reality that new antibiotics cannot be developed overnight, the fact that this is the first drug developed specifically for the treatment of C. diff to be released in fifty years is alarming. Granted part of the issue is because C. diff infections were not much of an issue until recently, and therefore a drug to treat the illness wasn’t much of a necessity for the majority of those fifty years. The point is, whether it be this new drug, or another drug in the future, we need to be proactive and be one step ahead of these infections. This involves the proper use of all antibiotics, engaging in behaviors aimed at the prevention of infections, communicating with healthcare professionals, and staying informed about important issues that can pose a threat to our health. It is also important to keep in mind that hand-washing is essential in preventing a C. diff infection, as it acts to physically remove spores that are unable to be killed by hand-sanitizing rubs.

In regard to antibiotic resistance, it’s not a matter of if, but rather when. We need to think not only of the many lives who are presently being impacted by preventable infections, but also of how such infections can evolve and impact future generations.

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One Response to “It Took Half A Century To Develop A C. Difficile Treatment”

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