C. diff – The killer "superbug" that hates soap, hates bleach, and hates buttermilk

Clostridium difficile
Clostridium difficile | Source

Let's talk about a really BAD superbug

Think of a really bad bug, a bug that is mean to deal with and really hard to kill once it gets to biting on you. While you are thinking about this little guy, try to understand that it is you and I who have trained him in his bad habit of tearing up someone’s innards, maybe yours, whenever you clear the way for him.

You would be thinking of the superbug of superbugs – Clostridium difficile (or C. diff, as he has become known).

C. diff - a survivor

C. diff has evolved into superbug status by surviving dose after dose of powerful antibiotic medicines, many different kinds, over a long enough period of time. This has allowed that bacterium to develop a formidable immunity to all but the most powerful antibiotics – and it has come a long way toward that "all," too.

C. diff, the really antibiotic-resistant kind, likes to hang around hospitals and medical facilities. A patient pops into a hospital bed with some sort of malady for which the doctor prescribes some antibiotic to effect a cure for what ails him. If luck is with the patient, the other bad bugs are zapped by the medicine and the patient goes home from the hospital a renewed and happy person. If the patient’s luck is missing, the good bugs in his intestines are wiped out sufficiently for whatever C. diff bugs were living in there to take over and cause that patient a bellyache the like of which he could never have imagined possible. C. diff took over, so to speak. Sometimes, in addition to a raging diarrhea and worse, this nasty superbug may decide to eat away at the patient’s intestine. Sometimes the "cure" for the C. diff infection is decided to be more antibiotic. Sometimes it may be decided to use another medication. When those don’t work, sometimes a large part of the patient’s intestine is removed, and the gobbling C. diff along with it. What choices!

The enemy of my enemy is probably my friend

Some thinking doctors have set about some possibly more rational cures for this quite serious, often deadly, C. diff attack. The cause, they reasoned, was a Clostridium difficile bug that most antibiotics would not touch and that this bug enjoyed attacking intestines that antibiotics had largely cleared of "friendly" bugs, happy little belly bugs that kept that C. diff bully in check. These smart medics have begun to treat their C. diff patients several ways, the first of which is "tasty" and the second of which is rather "gross."

An old-timey doc with some old-timey buttermilk

I can personally remember my good Dr. Rice (U.S. Navy) who decided one day that I needed a bunch of erythromycin tablets for whatever he thought ailed me (in addition to ignorance and a bad disposition...). His whole prescription consisted of those antibiotic pills plus a quart of farm-fresh buttermilk every day (and don't spill a drop of that buttermilk, either). He knew what the modern medics figured out about C. diff. "Surround the belly’s bad bugs with good bugs in order to keep those mean guys from taking over and killing GusTheRedneck. Preserve him to pester folks for years and years to come." So much for the "tasty" part.

Good luck with "Yuck"

As to the gross part as is now being put forth as a really effective cure for a raging C. diff infection, how does a "poop enema" sound to you? No kidding, it is said to be highly effective. The enema is made up of human feces from one or more healthy donors and it re-introduces "good" bacteria into a patient’s ravaged intestine.

Isn’t it amazing how, when things get messed up by the march of "progress" (like hospital medicine, antibiotics, all sorts of diagnostic equipment, and on and on) they can be rescued from their several big failures by a return to "messy" simplicity?

Let’s consider something else of importance before leaving the C. diff story.

C. diff is probably the world's original teetotaler

It has become apparent that the hospital environment is the comfortable home of the really bad C. diff bug, the one that is always ready to eat a person’s insides if only someone will prescribe a medicine to a patient to get rid of the belly’s "good" bugs so that C. diff can have the go-ahead to dine on the person. Can those hospital C. diffs be eliminated?

Likely not altogether, but there are two easy ways to make some headway toward clearing them from the premises. Probably the most important of the two is to insist that all who deal with patients or deal with anything in the patient environment pay attention to hand washing. Hand washing and not squirts of that alcohol-containing hand wipe stuff that so many hospital workers believe to be sufficient should be the rule. If you are a patient, never let any hospital worker touch you or things around you unless you know that they washed their hands first with soap and water – and then donned a clean pair of examination gloves. Yell at them if they fail to do this. After all, it is your belly.

The second way is "housekeeping" which, in the context of C. diff, includes the whole environment. C. diff laughs at alcohol. It will sort of curl up into spore form and wait around until the alcohol evaporates – and then it rears its head and teeth again. Bleach solution kills it, but you have to get to it with the bleach. If you want to spread C. diff around effectively, don’t wash your hands, don’t wipe doorknobs, keyboards, and floors with bleach solution, and whistle while you work at helping to zap some more patients.

Now, who would ever have thought of those things?

Soap, water, and bleach. Now who would ever have thought of those? Probably the same docs who came up with the probiotics to drink and the poop enemas to enjoy.

 

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Comments 33 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Wow!

Who knew?


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Howdy Will - C. diff is a tough customer, one that you and I do need to keep in mind each time we wander into a medical situation. Many of my fellow medics used to make fun of me because I washed my hands before messing with a patient and then, again, when I was done with the patient. Not so many laugh and carry on like that today.

Thanks for the read.

Gus :-)))


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

My wife's an RN Gus, and she washes her hands (plus sanitizer) so often it's a wonder she has any skin left.

Great advice my friend!


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Hi again, Will - It is a certainty that your wife will tell you all about C. diff and the problems it presents.

Thanks for the followup comment.

Gus :-)))


vietnamvet68 profile image

vietnamvet68 5 years ago from New York State

C.diff is certainly a nasty critter for sure, most hospitals are full of it. And most of us think a hospital is as clean as can be when in reality they are not. I've known too many who went to the hospital and ended up coming home with C.diff.

Great hub my friend

God Bless


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Howdy Vet - You said it so very well, good friend.

Gus :-)))


BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 5 years ago from New York

I've seen this super germ kill many an old person in a nursing home. When one needs an antibiotic it is best to straight up tell the doctor you want the kind not likely to cause C-diff because some are less likely to do so. I've heard of this enema and heard it works well.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

This is where Pro-biotics were invented to combat anti-biotics. You can get pro-biotics in pill form too. Or eat yoghurt (yuck). Buttermilk is good.

Poop enemas sound horrible and I had never heard of them! Crazy doctors.

Don't forget about MRSA! The nasty staph bug.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Bobbi - The elderly are more vulnerable to all sorts of bad bugs, but C. diff can really do a "number" on the aged. The nursing home environment can be particularly conducive to all sorts of disease spreading in that many, if not most, of such places seem not to pay sufficient attention to cleanliness and hygiene. In many nursing homes, the nursing staff is woefully underpaid and very ill-trained. I used to be able to determine if a particular nursing home was a "good one" or a "bad one" by its odor the moment I opened the front door. C. diff is only one of the problems for nursing homes.

Gus :-)))

Gus :-)))


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Lela (Austinstar) - The advantage, or possibly, the disadvantage, of working in a "real" hospital is that the infection control folks provide lots and lots of training to help the staff understand the ways of bugs and how to zap 'em and how to keep them under some sort of control. What I observed was that far too many staff members ignored or downplayed all of that training and kept on with their shortcuts of scant hand-washing and their conviction that alcohol kills all bugs, so why use soap, water, and bleach... It is a never-ending battle, even in the best of medical facilities. Joseph Lister had the same sorts of problems as do the infection control people today - some folks don't pay attention to what they teach.

As to "MRSA" (translates to antibiotic [methicillin] resistant Staphylococcus aureus, it came about in the mostly medical environment because of the overuse of antibiotics and insufficient dosages that allowed emergence of antibiotic-resistant "staph" bugs. MRSA is bad news and causes all sorts of problems. Lots of hand-washing also helps in that fight, too.

Gus :-)))


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

I had heard of this meanie germ before, Gus, but the poop enema is absolutely new to me.

I guess now when a doctor examines you for an intestinal problem and says, "Sh*t!," it is not an exclamation but a prescription!!!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Gus - Yeah, sanitation practices aren't routinely followed even in hospitals, and I've seen the same neglect in nursing homes where proper cleaning techniques are really essential. I remember the wheelchair where Mom was seated and wishing I could take it through the car wash.

This C-diff bug sounds really nasty and the cure even more so. Pretty creepy.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Good Doctor bj - Whenever a humorous comment is needed, folks can count on our good friend, drbj, to come up with one. There is that old biblical expression that contains something like, ..."there is nothing new under the sun..." However, those "poop" enemas are still very likely to be very much not out there in the sunlight, are they?

Great comment, good friend!

Gus :-)))


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Howdy Peg - All disease has a way of being "creepy." One of the "creepiest" things that I witnessed occured when I was the patient in a procedure in which there was to be an injection made. The assistant washed his hands OK and then donned some protective gloves, picked up the syringe and medication bottle and then loaded the syringe fter sticking the needle into the bottle through its rubber cap - without sterilizing the rubber cap first. At first I did not believe what I had just seen.

That wheelchair you mentioned had likely not been cleaned for the longest time. It is truly amazing how bad things can be if patients and their sponsors stay voiceless.

Gus :-)))


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota

That was the most disgusting useful information I have ever heard.

Who do they get to volunteer for the healthy poop enema?

Gotta show my daughter this one she is a germaphobe.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Tamarajo - That was a really funny comment. Take your place right next to drbj. What are you asking...who do they get to volunteer for the healthy poop enema? Haven't you seen those public service announcements on the TV - sort of like the ones for the blood bank deal?

Gus :-)))


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

Holy crap is all I can say - literally! C. diff is no laughing matter for a lot of folks, especially the elderly. My mom had it and swore she was gonna die....I can't imagine. Totally appropriate information as more and more elderly folks get this - and I don't know about a poop enema but it ain't no laughing matter if you get it! Voted up for informative and important!


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Hi Audrey - Mothers seem to always know best. I hope that she is doing OK now. Gotta watch out for that C. diff stuff, Audrey. Forget about "immunity." thanks for the read and the welcome comments.

Gus :-)))


ImChemist profile image

ImChemist 5 years ago

I like this hub , its very informative. thanks.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

ImChemist - I hope that the information in the article is of help to you.

Gus :-)))


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

You've done a good service to the public by highlighting this bad-boy bug.

If people understood what was floating around doctor's offices, hospitals, and nursing homes they would think twice before going and rarely, if ever, visit a patient at one. What the "caregivers" take home and into stores on their shoes, and even on their clothes, is appalling.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

About the tech that stuck the needle through the top of the vial without sterilizing it first - If they pulled the little metal cap off first, then the top is already sterile and doesn't need to be alcohol wiped, although it never hurts.

Maybe leeches will catch on again when everyone gets used to the poop enemas.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

RTalloni - You said it very well. There are big problems with the stuff "caregivers" carry around with them from their workplaces. With C. diff, however, the worst effects come about when the ultimate victims (the newly infected) have their intestines pretty much cleared of "good bugs" so as to allow the C. diffs to cut loose relatively unopposed.

Gus :-)))


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Lela (Austinstar) - I should have made it clear that the medication vial into which the tech jammed the syringe's needle without benefit of first sterilizing the vial's rubber top was not a single-use vial, but was a larger vial containing injection solution used for multiple patients. I would also not trust the rubber seal of an unused vial to have remained sterile because the aluminum covering for the seal is not without openings and it could have been roundly contaminated before use (like maybe someone dropped the vial into a potty bowl - who knows?)

I used to know a fellow who grew and sold medical leeches. Ugly little guys they were, too, including the fellow.

Gus :-)))


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

That's true, but it is highly contagious and careless caregivers help spread it, as can careless or unaware visitors.


kathryn1000 profile image

kathryn1000 5 years ago from London

Very informative whilst also being very funny too!


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Thank you, kathryn - I tried to make this article readable and factual, both at the same time. I am happy that you enjoyed reading it.

Gus :-)))


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

My son came down with this when he was hospitalized last year, and it took a plethora of strong antibiotics to rid himself of it. C-diff is no laughing matter, and I can't thank you enough for sharing this informative hub!


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Hi Genna - I hope that your son is OK now. You are correct. C. diff is a mean bug. As to the article, You are kind to think it worthy of reading.

Gus :-)))


cwarden profile image

cwarden 5 years ago from USA

Yuck, yuck and yuck. Thanks for the information, seems pretty important to know about this.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA Author

Hi cwarden - Yuckie stuff is exactly correct. Anything that helps to keep you breathing is important to know. You are right again!

Gus :-)))


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 4 years ago

Dear Gus - Thank you for a "super" Hub. Now that's one good type of bug, don't you think? I learned a lot here and will talk up the buttermilk. They are now doing fecal implants, as well. The enema sounds like an easier method. Hold that thought! Blessings, Debby


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 4 years ago from USA Author

Hi Debby -

Little bugs

within the gut

No one wants you

in there, but...

If we get

good bugs from cow,

you'll be gone,

and I mean NOW.

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