Food additive to blame for C. difficile epidemic

When Clostridium difficile infections rear their ugly head, patients are at serious risk. But no one knows what is behind the soaring number of infections. New research puts a food additive at the heart of the epidemic.Clostridium difficile is a bacterium capable of causing life-threatening diarrhea, colitis, toxic megacolon, organ failure, and death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), C. difficile is currently “the most common microbial cause of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals and costs up to $4.8 billion each year.”

In fact, C. difficile causes half a million infections and kills 15,000 people each year, the majority of whom are seniors. Yet these numbers used to be much lower.

Writing in the journal Nature recently, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, and colleagues at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Leiden Medical Center in the Netherlands, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, United Kingdom, might have located the missing piece in the puzzle.

They point the finger squarely at a food additive, the simple sugar trehalose, which is widely used by the food industry.



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