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Clostridium difficile infections increasing among children

January 03, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
  • Magnification of Clostridium difficile bacteria.
Magnification of Clostridium difficile bacteria. (Centers for Disease Control…)

Clostridium difficile, a nasty, infectious disease that tends to spread in hospitals, is cropping up in more U.S. children, researchers reported Monday. The infection can cause diarrhea, inflammation of the colon and even severe complications, such as bowel perforation.

Clostridium difficile is far more common in adults, especially the elderly. But researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center analyzed records of hospitalized children at various points from 1997 to 2006. Overall, only 0.2% of the patients in the database had Clostridium difficile. But the number increased about 15% each year -- from 3,565 cases in 1997 to 7,779 in 2006. Children with the infection had longer hospitalizations compared with those who didn't have the infection and also had higher death rates and more surgeries to remove a part of the colon.

Infection seemed more common among white children, those who lived in the West and those with private insurance. The infection is linked to antibiotic use. The study is published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

In recent years, a more aggressive form of Clostridium difficile has been circulating, which may be the reason why more children are becoming infected, the authors suggested. In December, health officials in Australia reported the first cases of this dangerous strain of Clostridium difficile. Infection rates have been much more common in the Northern Hemisphere.  

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