Patients admitted to hospital with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) face a sixfold greater risk of death if they become infected with Clostridium difficile, a new study has found. The researchers say IBD patients should be screened on admission to protect them from serious illness.
IBD, consisting of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, affects around 240,000 people in the UK and its symptoms include abdominal pain and diarrhoea. When sufferers experience a bout of severe symptoms, they often need to be admitted to hospital.
C. difficile bacteria are present naturally in the gut in around two thirds of children and 3 per cent of adults, but they do not cause problems in healthy people. Broad spectrum antibiotics can cause problems by killing harmless bacteria that usually reside in the gut, allowing C. difficile to flourish and produce toxins that cause diarrhoea and fever. The infection is rarely fatal in people who are not already severely ill or elderly; a review published in 2010 estimated the overall mortality rate for patients with C. difficile to be 6 per cent.