Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff, is the most common cause of healthcare-acquired diarrhoea. It is a spore-forming bacterium that is quite commonly found in the human intestine where it can live without causing any harm. Problems arise when the balance of bacteria in the intestine is disturbed, and C. diff multiplies, producing toxins which cause diarrhoea. Sometimes this can happen when a patient receives antibiotic treatment for an infection (although getting rid of C. diff itself often needs the use of an antibiotic, but of a particular kind). 

C. diff is usually spread on the hands of people who come into contact with infected patients, so good hand hygiene and cleaning are the most important ways of controlling the spread of the bacteria. C. diff spores are hardy and unlike other bacteria, they aren’t easily destroyed. The spores can enter the environment and survive for long periods on areas such as toilets, commodes, bedclothes, skin and clothing. 

When a spore passes through the stomach and changes to its active form in the intestine (gut), it can multiply and cause an infection, particularly if the person is already ill or frail (generally, healthy people such as family or staff are not at risk).

• Abdominal pain 
• Raised temperature 
• Watery or bloody diarrhoea that can last from a few days to several weeks

C. diff produces toxins which can damage the lining of the gut, causing ulceration. Untreated, it may cause a perforation or puncture of the intestine, which in frail people can be fatal. 

If C. diff is able to multiply in the intestine, the diarrhoea it causes can range from mild to very severe. 

All our staff are aware of the importance of good hand hygiene practice and receive yearly training to ensure that they are aware of the precautions that need to be taken. 

We have a team of dedicated cleaning staff who cover all areas of the Hospice. To ensure our strict guidelines are followed, general cleaning is monitored by our managers.  

We also have strict procedures to ensure that all equipment, such as commodes and bedpans, are properly decontaminated. 

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If you are being treated for C. diff you will need to stay in your room and the door will be closed to help prevent the infection spreading to other patients. To ensure the infection has cleared, you will need to stay in your room for a further two to three days after the diarrhoea has stopped. 

The doctor caring for you will discuss your treatment which may include an appropriate antibiotic.

You will need to wash your hands frequently, especially before eating and drinking and after going to the toilet. 

You can continue to have visitors, but people vulnerable to infection will be advised not to visit while you have diarrhoea. All visitors should wash their hands with running water and liquid soap and dry them carefully before leaving your room. 

When your clothing is laundered at home, it is advisable to use the hottest wash the fabric will tolerate.

  • It can be harmful to ill people as they get infected more easily and it can be difficult to treat
  • Hand washing and good hygiene stops it spreading
  • Antibiotics are available to treat the infection