The Clostridium Difficile (C. diff) Epidemic

By Ross Pelton, Scientific Director, Essential Formulas

Help Protect Yourself Against C. diff Infections
With Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics®

Every year during the winter cold & flu season, there is an enormous increase in the number of antibiotic prescriptions dispensed in pharmacies, urgent care clinics and hospitals. I think this is contributing to the global problem of antibiotic-resistant “Superbugs.” One of the worst is antibiotic-resistant Clostridium difficile.

Clostridium difficile (frequently referred to as C. diff) is a pathological strain of bacteria that is becoming an increasingly serious health threat. C. diff produces toxins that are extremely irritating to cells in the intestinal tract, which frequently causes intense inflammation and severe diarrhea. The United States is currently experiencing an accelerating epidemic of increasingly toxic and often deadly Clostridium difficile antibiotic-resistant infections.

Numerous studies and scientific experts agree that maintaining a healthy microbiome is the primary key for protection against C. diff infections.i I recommend Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® to help people maintain a healthy microbiome. Other factors that help support a healthy immune system include vitamin D, vitamin C and omega-3 fish oil supplements, a healthy diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep.

History of Clostridium difficile Infections:

We are experiencing an epidemic of C. diff infections. Currently there are about 500,000 cases of C. difficile infections reported in the United States each year and the latest statistics indicate that about 29,000 people die from C. diff infections annually. In fact, most people don’t realize that more people in the United States are currently dying from C. diff infections than from HIV and AIDS combined.

C. difficile infections have historically been seen primarily as a hospital-acquired infectious disease problem and C. diff is currently the leading cause of hospital-acquired illness in the United States. However, there is also an alarming increase in the number of Clostridium difficile infections (CDIs) in non-hospitalized patients. For example, in one study, 41% of Clostridium difficile infections were community-acquired rather than hospital-acquired.ii

C. difficile spores have a hard, outer coat that allows them to survive the harsh acid environment in the stomach. When they arrive in the large intestine/colon area of the GI tract, they germinate, which means they cease being dormant spores and begin to grow and become active. This is when they begin to produce and secrete their toxins.

Asymptomatic Clostridium difficile:

Many people harbor C. diff bacteria in their GI tract, but do not manifest symptoms of C. diff infections. This is called asymptomatic Clostridium difficile.

Some studies suggest that approximately 15% of healthy adults harbor C. diff. In hospitalized elderly patients, asymptomatic C. diff has been reported to be as high as 51%. Among healthy newborn infants, the prevalence of asymptomatic C. difficile has been reported as high as 90%.

Clostridium difficile Infections Are Increasing:

I believe that far more people in the general population have C. diff bacteria in their GI tract that the figures in the previous paragraph indicate. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we someday learn that most people have C. diff. However, in many people, a few C. diff bacteria do not cause problems. This is because traditionally, small numbers of C. diff do not cause infections.

The primary cause for the alarming increase in the incidence of C. diff infections is due to the widespread use, and over-use of antibiotics. The following two problems develop resulting from the use of antibiotics:

  1. C. difficile becomes antibiotic resistant: Taking antibiotics results in the destruction of the majority of your beneficial probiotics. This allows C. diff bacteria to begin to flourish. When C. diff bacteria are exposed to an antibiotic, some of the C. diff develop immunity or resistance to the antibiotic. Then, the next time the individual gets sick and receives another round of antibiotics, some C. diff bacteria are immune, and more C. diff bacteria become antibiotic resistant with this second round of antibiotics.
  2. C. difficile is becoming more toxic: Bacteria are incredibly smart. In addition to antibiotic resistance, newer hyper-virulent strains of C. diff are reportedly secreting from 16 to 23x more toxins than previous strains and the newer toxins have a much higher level of toxicity.iii

The key to not becoming a statistic in the epidemic of C. diff infections is to maintain a healthy microbiome and a strong immune system. The overabundance of beneficial bacteria in a healthy microbiome helps keep C. diff under control.

Postbiotic Metabolites:

The reason Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® are an excellent choice to help maintain a healthy microbiome is because it is a fermented food product that delivers postbiotic metabolites in each dose. Various postbiotic metabolites are key essential nutrients while others provide anti-inflammatory activity, antibiotic activity against pathogens, anti-yeast and anti-fungal activity, improve detoxification and help maintain the optimal acid/base balance in the microbiome.

Postbiotic metabolites play critical roles in the maintenance of a healthy microbiome. This is the Dr. Ohhira’s Difference!™


i Schubert AM, et al. Microbiome Data Distinguish Patient with Clostridium difficile Infection and Non-C. difficile-Associated Diarrhea from Healthy Controls. mBio. 2014;5(3):e01021-14.
ii Khanna S, et al. The Epidemiology of Community-acquired Clostridium difficile infection: A population-based study. Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Jan; 107(1):89-95.
iii Warmy M., et al. Toxin production by an emerging strain of Clostridium difficile associated with outbreaks of severe disease in North America and Europe. Lancet. 2005 Sep 24-30;366(9491):1079-84.