Younger patients vulnerable to symptoms 2 years after C. diff infection

Nonelderly patients are at risk for gastrointestinal symptoms for up to two years after Clostridium difficile infection, a study published in PLOS ONE found.

The researchers retrospectively examined the gastrointestinal diagnoses and C. diff infections during hospitalizations in the 24 to 36 months following an initial C. diff episode to characterize outcomes in nonelderly patients.

Patients admitted to the hospital between 2010-13 were included in the analysis if they were younger than 65, had a C. diff infection diagnosis in 2011, had at least 12 months of continuous enrollment and had follow-up with providers for 24 to 36 months. On average, the patients were 47 years old.

The researchers found "C. difficile infection would have an impact even in a putative low-risk group [healthier, younger people — less than 65 years of age]," study author Tamar Barlam, MD, told MD Magazine.

The risk for gastrointestinal diagnoses for patients who had had C. diff was about eight  times higher in the three months post-infection than for those without C. diff. This was statistically significant until about the 24th month, the researchers said.

"The importance of the gut microbiome is better understood each year, and C. difficile and its treatment disrupts that microbiome," Dr. Barlam said. "We did find a significant impact in that cohort and were surprised how long that impact seemed to last — up to two  years — before the cohort returned to a pre-C. difficile baseline. I think data like this will continue to move us toward treatments that restore the microbiome as well as treat the C. difficile infection, across risk groups."

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