Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is a serious illness resulting from infection of the inner lining of the colon by C. difficile bacteria, which produce toxins that cause inflammation of the colon, severe diarrhea and, in the most serious cases, death. Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea is the most common symptom of CDI. In recent years, C. difficile has surpassed methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as the leading cause of healthcare-acquired infections in community hospitals. Patients typically develop CDAD from the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics that disrupt normal gastrointestinal (gut) flora, possibly allowing C. difficile bacteria to flourish.
The incidence, mortality and medical care costs of CDI have reached historic highs. Over the past decade, the incidence of CDI has increased five-fold in North America and eight-fold in the elderly. It is also linked to almost 30,000 deaths annually in the U.S.1 CDI is a significant burden on the U.S. healthcare system.
1. Elixhauser, A. and Jhung, MA. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Clostridium Difficile-Associated Disease in U.S. Hospitals, 1993–2005. Statistical Brief #50. April 2008. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb50.pdf