IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Antibiotics have been a go-to treatment option for many illnesses, but there are types of bacteria which become resistant to antibiotics.
Super bugs which include Clostridium Difficile or C-Diff can be deadly if contracted. Not too long ago doctors used to believe C-Diff was only acquired during or following a hospital stay, but a new strain called USA-300 is a community acquired C-Diff bug which can affect a healthy person at any age.
"It's definitely on the upswing," said Dr. Richard Nathan and infectious disease specialist in Idaho Falls.
Gastroenterologist Dr. Todd Williams and Nathan both said they have been seeing a growing number of patients with C-Diff.
"In Idaho Falls last year we diagnosed 198 cases of C-Diff and in the hospital itself we treated 79 cases," said Dr. Williams.
Those numbers are only from one lab at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and do not include cases at other local hospitals or the Treasure Valley.
Up to 30,000 people a year die from C-Diff. It affects the elderly more severely, but even healthy infants can get the C-Diff bug.
"Any antibiotic can lead to C-Diff," said Dr. Nathan.
Antibiotics are prescribed to kill the bad bacteria when someone is sick, but they also kill the good bacteria that keep people healthy.
When very little good bacteria is present in the stomach, it provides an environment for C-Diff to flourish.
Once C-Diff spores enter your body, they survive stomach acid and move into the small intestine, where they multiply.
When they get to the large intestine symptoms begin to take hold. The most common symptoms include severe abdominal pain, frequent diarrhea up to 15 times a day and inflammation of the colon.
"Part of the prevention process is to avoid antibiotics," said Dr. Nathan.
"A lot of folks will come in and they'll have a stuffy nose or they've got a fever and they'll want to walk out of the doctor's office with something. What they don't realize is that if they walk out with antibiotics they have an increased risk of developing C-Diff," said Dr. Williams.
Dr. Williams said he's had a 100% success rate curing C-Diff with a stool transplant.
The procedure involves an enema that injects healthy donor feces into the patient to regain healthy gut flora and clear up C-Diff. Williams said it provides immediate results.
"By the time you get it, boom, you go home, you're cured," said Williams.
"C-Difficile is real, people get it every day, healthy people get it everyday," said Nathan.
EIRMC is in the process of developing a database for healthy stool donors. The hospital said there is a severe shortage for healthy donors in eastern Idaho. Many patients with severe C-Diff who are in the intensive care unit will need a stool transplant as a last resort before colon removal or death.
Both Nathan and Williams said the best prevention is also washing your hands with plain soap and water.