A new discovery about dangerous Clostridium difficile diarrhea has identified a new way that the bacteria – and possibly others like it – cause severe disease. “C. diff” is the most common hospital-acquired infection; the Centers for Disease Control estimate it results in 453,000 cases per year, with 29,300 associated deaths.
The new finding from the lab of CIC member, Bill Petri, explains why certain patients are highly susceptible to C. diff infections, provides doctors with a way to predict disease severity and points to a new way to treat the often-deadly condition.
The UVA researchers found that the immune response to C. diff causes tissue damage and even death through a type of immune cell called Th17. This solves a longstanding mystery about why disease severity does not correlate with the amount of bacteria in the body but, instead, to the magnitude of the immune response. It also explains why patients with inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to suffer severe C. diff infections and more likely to die from them.