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Acid-blocking drugs linked to C. diff infection

A class of antacids known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may increase the risk of severe diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile bacteria, the FDA has announced. The advisory comes after the agency’s review of 28 observational studies, which found that the rate of C. difficile infection was from 1.4 to 2.75 times higher among patients who had been taking PPIs such as Nexium, Dexilant, Prevacid, and Prilosec, among others.

Although antacids can relieve the pain of heartburn and help to heal ulcers, the resulting reduction of stomach acid lowers the body’s defense against some pathogens. Normally, the stomach is acidic enough to kill bacteria like C. difficile. However, if the stomach isn’t adequately acidic, these bacteria will pass into the intestines and may cause a serious infection. (Yet as ACSH advisor Dr. John Dunne points out, C. difficile infections most commonly result from antibiotics, which can reduce the normal intestinal flora, allowing C. difficile to flourish.)

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