What exactly is C-Difficile? How do you catch it? Is it contagious?

Not Medical Advice. Clostridium difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) is a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Illness from C. difficile most commonly affects older adults in hospitals and usually occurs after use of antibiotics.

C. difficile is most common in hospitals and other health care facilities, where a much higher percentage of people carry the bacteria. It is not contagious, but is passed in feces and spread to food, surfaces, and objects when people who are infected don't wash their hands thoroughly. The bacteria produce hardy spores that can persist in a room for weeks or months. If you touch a surface contaminated then you might unknowingly ingest the bacteria.

People in good health generally aren’t affected by it because the bacteria in their stomachs kill it off. However, if it does establish itself, C. difficile can produce toxins that attack the lining of the intestine. The toxins destroy cells and produce patches of inflammatory cells and decaying cellular debris inside the colon.

Updated on Monday, April 02 2012 at 06:37AM BST