Common pain reliever worsens C. diff infections in mice

Severe Clostridium difficile infections may be linked to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are commonly used to relieve pain, according to a study published in mBio.

The researchers tracked two groups of antibiotic-treated mice for one week after contracting a C. diff infection. One group received an NSAID called indomethacin before infection, and the other did not.

Only about 20 percent of the mice treated with the NSAID survived to the end of the observation period, compared with about 80 percent of the mice not exposed to the NSAID.

The researchers found even brief exposure to the NSAID before C. diff inoculation increased the severity of infections and shortened survival.

NSAID-driven changes worsened C. difficile infections by disturbing the normal immune response and impairing epithelial cells, which are the main defense system in the intestine against infectious organisms.

Although the researchers only looked at the effect of one NSAID, lead study author David Aronoff, MD, said he thinks the findings might extend to other common NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, since they have a similar biological mechanism.

"Ultimately, these new results might guide how we treat people with C. diff, particularly with pain management," Dr. Aronoff said. "Right now, it's too early for our results to guide clinical care, but they should be a stimulus for future studies."

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