Clostridium Dificile is the new superbug and it can be a killer. According to an article in the AMA News, infections with C. Dificile are on the rise, have tripled in the last decade, and account for a significant number of deaths.
According to Mayo Clinic’s website, “People in good health don't usually get sick from C. difficile. Your intestines contain millions of bacteria, many of which help protect your body from infection. But when you take an antibiotic to treat an infection, the drug can destroy some of the normal, helpful bacteria as well as the bacteria causing the illness. Without enough healthy bacteria, C. difficile can quickly grow out of control. The antibiotics that most often lead to C. difficile infections include fluoroquinolones, cephalosporins, clindamycin and penicillins.”
Unfortunately, many patients still believe they need an antibiotic every time they get sick. While it takes me 45 seconds to prescribe an antibiotic, it takes me 10 minutes to explain why I don’t want to prescribe one. In the former case, my patients leave the office believing that they have been adequately treated and that I am a “good” doc. In the latter case, my patients are often angry, feels cheated out of a chance to get better, and that I am a “bad” doc.
I have published multiple articles on how docs diagnose and treat illnesses and on the differences between viral and bacterial infections. The human body is capable of defeating both bacterial and viral infections on its own. Antibiotics, when appropriately prescribed, can assist your body in its fight against bacteria. Antibiotics do not kill viruses!
All of life can be boiled down to a risk vs. benefit ratio. Antibiotics are not smart weapons. Antibiotics kill bacteria. In many instances, they kill the good bacteria as well as the bad. In the case of C. Dificile, the most commonly used antibiotics do not kill it; they kill the good bacteria that are part of your body’s natural defenses against C.Dificile.
C. Dificile can be a nasty foe. It can cause severe, life-threatening diarrhea. There are two main antibiotics that can kill it and both can be hard to tolerate. Neither are guaranteed to eradicate it.
The take home message is simple. When appropriate, antibiotics should be used. When inappropriate, antibiotics should be avoided. Your doc is trained to make that assessment. Please, do not push your doc into compromising and giving you an antibiotic when he/she does not feel it will help you.