AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - C Difficile is estimated to cause about 500,000 infections a year, with almost 30,000 people dying from the bacterium. As the bacteria spreads, local researchers are working hard to come up with new ways to combat it.
Brent Knowles says his elderly mother has been in extreme pain and discomfort since she was diagnosed with C Diff a few weeks ago.
"She's been having problems with fainting, hot flashes,then indigestion," said Knowles. "It's hard and it's been hard on my parents
Knowles says he isn't sure where his mother picked up the bacteria, but says she had been in an Amarillo hospital before becoming ill. Local doctors are calling this bacteria a national epidemic.
"It's still a big issue, it's still ongoing," said Doctor Roger Smalligan at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. "I can't say that it's under control, it's affecting every hospital, every facility in town."
Those who have previously taken antibiotics are more susceptible to the bacteria. The reason, is once antibiotics fight off bacteria in your gut, there is nothing left to combat the C Diff.
Doctor Smalligan says it mostly affects patients in hospitals or long term care facilities, but now doctors are seeing cases of c diff in people who have not been to a hospital.
"It's in the community. I'm not saying those cases are that common yet," said Smalligan. "People who visit friends and family in the hospital might notice that there are a lot of yellow gowns and gloves that go into rooms and that would commonly be to protect them from getting the disease because it spreads by touching an item or person, or something that might have some of the C Diff infection on it because it can actually survive on surfaces."
Currently, three antibiotics treat C Diff, however it is largely resistant to two of them. Researchers at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center are in the testing phase of a new antibiotic -- with hopes it will be more effective in treating the bacteria.
"It looks promising, but you can imagine how long it takes to go from using it in rats to using it in humans," said Smalligan. "So, we're still working on it."
If Texas Tech can advance their research, it could be a game changer in the lives of c diff infected patients across the nation.
"I think it's great that we have that here in our midst in Amarillo," said Knowles.
Doctor Smalligan says hand sanitizer has not been proven effective for C Diff. It is recommended to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds to prevent spreading the infection.