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Harmful bacterial infection grows more common in clinics and doctor’s offices

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A serious infection that has been on the rise in hospital patients is being increasingly reported among people who work or spend time in doctor’s offices, clinics and other health-care settings. Caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff, the infection can cause chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain and intestinal inflammation, which can be life-threatening in severe cases.

The problem often affects hospitalized patients treated with antibiotics, which not only kill harmful bacteria but also can destroy protective ones, allowing C. diff to gain a foothold. But new research suggests that the bugs are now also infecting people outside hospital settings, including some who haven’t taken antibiotics. In a study of 984 people with C. diff, about 60 percent had taken antibiotics within the previous 12 weeks — but more than 80 percent had been to a health-care clinic.

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