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Why C. difficile Infection Spreads despite Increased Sanitation Practices

By February 14, 2020No Comments

Once widely considered an antibiotic- and hospital-associated pathogen, recent research into C. difficile has shown the infection is more frequently acquired outside of hospitals. Now, a team of researchers has shown that GI disturbances, such as those caused by food poisoning and laxative abuse, trigger susceptibility to colonization by C. difficile, and carriers remain C. difficile-positive for a year or longer.

“Our work helps show why the hospital and antibiotic association of C. difficile infections is an oversimplification of the risks and transmission patterns, and helps reconcile a lot of the observations that have followed the more recent revelation that transmission within hospitals is uncommon,” says David VanInsberghe PhD ’19, a recent graduate of the MIT Department of Biology and lead author of the study. “Diarrheal events can trigger long-term Clostridium difficile colonization with recurrent blooms” in Nature Microbiology, published on Feb. 10.

The researchers analyzed human gut microbiome time series studies conducted on individuals who had diarrhea illnesses and were not treated with antibiotics. Observing the colonization of C. difficile soon after the illnesses were acquired, they tested this association directly by feeding mice increasing quantities of laxatives while exposing them to non-pathogenic C. difficile spores. Their results suggest that GI disturbances create a window of susceptibility to C. difficile colonization during recovery.