Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) is a bacteria sometimes found in the gut of healthy people. When C. diff. is present in the gut along with other 'normal bacteria' it will not cause any harm. Sometimes however, the normal balance of the gut can be upset, for example when taking antibiotics. This allows the C. diff. to multiply in large numbers, releasing toxins into the body. These toxins irritate the lining of the bowel and can cause a range of symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, fever and nausea.
When C. diff. causes diarrhoea, spores are released which contaminate the surrounding environment. These spores can live on surfaces for a long time, and are easily picked up on other people's hands. Through hand to mouth contact, the C.diff can then be transferred to the stomach and bowel.
Treatment of C. diff. depends on how severe the diarrhoea is. Sometimes no treatment is needed, and the symptoms resolve of their own accord, particularly if the patient has completed the course of antibiotics and balance of the normal gut flora is restored. Any antibiotics that are being taken will be stopped where possible, and a specific antibiotic which is effective in the treatment of C. diff may be prescribed. Most people with C. diff make a full recovery.