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Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) afflict as many as 5% of hospital patients, particularly those receiving antibiotic therapy. The antibiotics are thought to damage normal gut microflora, allowing pathogens to flourish. Clostridium difficile is one of the most common pathogens, causing diarrhea, intestinal inflammation (colitis) and even death in infected patients. Management of C. difficile incurs an estimated $3.5 billion in health care costs in the US annually, and costs are expect to increase with the emergence of new, more virulent strains of C. difficile. C. difficile is resistant to many antibiotics and is normally treated with one of two potent antibiotics (metronidazole or vancomycin). Such treatment carries two key drawbacks: relapses are common, and the treatment may contribute to increasing antibiotic resistance among bacteria. Effective alternatives to antibiotics are greatly needed. To address this need, recent research has explored a new treatment strategy for C. difficile that relies on the body’s own defenses against infection. The results may lead to development of new approaches for treating C. difficile infection as well as other bacterial diseases.
Lab Anim. (NY) 40, 288 (2011).
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