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Stomach Bug Crystallizes an Antibiotic Threat

Earlier this year, Harold and Freda Mitchell of Como, Miss., both came down with a serious stomach bug. At first, doctors did not know what was wrong, but the gastrointestinal symptoms became so severe that Mrs. Mitchell, 66, was hospitalized for two weeks. Her husband, a manufacturing supervisor, missed 20 days of work.

A local doctor who had worked in a Veterans Affairs hospital recognized the signs of Clostridium difficile, a contagious and potentially deadly bacterium. Although the illness is difficult to track, health officials estimate that in the United States the bacteria cause 350,000 infections each year in hospitals alone, with tens of thousands more occurring in nursing homes. While the majority of cases are found in health care settings, 20 percent or more may occur in the community. The illness kills an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people annually.
 
 

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