C.diff ups death risk for IBD patients

  • Deborah Condon

Patients admitted to hospital with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are six times more likely to die if they become infected with Clostridium difficile (C.diff) compared to IBD patients who do not pick up the bug, the results of a new study indicate.

C.diff is the most rapidly increasing hospital-acquired illness in the Western world. It usually occurs following antibiotic therapy in hospitals. Infections arise as a direct result of disturbing gut bacteria following antibiotic treatment.

The bug causes diarrhoea, abdominal pain, inflammation of the colon, fever, vomiting and dehydration.

The term IBD covers a group of disorders in which the intestines become inflamed and the digestive system is impaired. It is commonly divided into two categories - ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

The conditions have similar symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, loss of appetite and weight loss. Left uncontrolled, symptoms may ‘flare up', causing severe abdominal pain and frequent visits to the bathroom. Around 15,000 Irish people are affected.

When sufferers experience a severe bout of symptoms, they often need to be admitted to hospital.

UK researchers examined statistics on patient admissions between 2002 and 2008. They found that IBD patients who contract C.diff in hospital are six times more likely to die in hospital than IBD patients who do not catch the bug.

In fact, the mortality rate for IBD patients with C.diff at 30 days was 25%, compared with just 3% for patients with IBD alone.

The study also found that IBD patients with C.diff stay in hospital for longer, with an average length of stay of 26 days compared with five days for people with IBD alone. They are also almost twice as likely to need gastrointestinal surgery.

"Hospitals must do everything they can to control infections such as C.diff. We are asking for these high risk patients to be screened for C.diff proactively on admission to hospital so that if they are exposed, they can be diagnosed and treated more quickly," the researchers said.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

For more information on IBD, see our Crohn's and Colitis Clinic here



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