South Florida Doctor Sounding the Alarm About C. difficile

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Perry Hookman MD, a board certified gastroenterologist is warning people about a new more deadly hyper virulent strain of a bacterium called C. difficile that is resistant to antibiotics and contracted in hospitals and long term care facilities. He is also offering advice about how to minimize your risk for contracting C. difficile.

The April issue of the peer-reviewed World Journal Of Gastroenterology (http://www.wjgnet.com) features an article about a new more deadly hyper virulent strain of a bacterium called C. difficile that is resistant to antibiotics. The article is co-authored by Boca Raton board certified gastroenterologist Perry Hookman, MD, who is also a voluntary associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Like the more well-known methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, C. difficile is associated with the use of antibiotics, which provide room for "bad" bacterium, like C. difficile, to take over. In other words, although the antibiotic you take for an illness may cure one infection, it may trigger another infection in your gut -- the development of C. difficile.

C. difficile is particularly alarming because:

  • A hospitalized patient may catch the infection from the up to two-thirds of hospitalized patients who may be infected with it.
  • The rate of C. difficile infection among hospital patients doubled between 2001 and 2005, according to a recent article on the subject in the "Science Times" section of The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/14/health/14well.html?_r=1&ref=science
  • Individuals who have C. difficile but are asymptomatic, and who are admitted to healthcare facilities, can transmit the organism to other susceptible patients.
  • It has begun to appear in seemingly healthy adults who in some cases were never in a hospital or low term care facility.
  • It is becoming more deadly because of the emergence of a new hyper-virulent strain.

Dr. Hookman advises that you protect yourself from C. difficile, by limiting your use of antibiotics first and foremost. In addition, if you are hospitalized he advises that you:

  • Confirm that the walls of your hospital room and especially its bathroom and toilet have been washed thoroughly with chlorine bleach before you move into the room.
  • Ask your doctor to wipe the flat surface on his stethoscope to remove germs before he uses it to examine you.
  • Ask everyone who comes to visit you at the hospital to wash their hands when they enter your room and to not sit on your bed. Ideally, they should not use your bathroom either.

Dr. Hookman has over 30 years of experience in internal medicine and gastroenterology and is a voluntary associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and on the teaching staff of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami Florida. He has co-authored over 50 peer-reviewed articles in the fields of internal medicine and gastroenterology. In addition, he has been retained as an expert medical witness by the Office of Medicare Hearings & Appeals of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

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MARY REED
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