Harmful bacteria possibly spreading through Amarillo

Updated: Feb. 27, 2015 at 7:19 PM CST
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Amarillo, TX - A potentially deadly bacteria originating in hospitals is now being reported as spreading to doctors and dentists.

It's a national epidemic and the Center for Disease Control is working to alert the public about the recent spread, which is happening in Amarillo.

Clostridium Difficile, also known as C. Diff, is a bacteria that can cause inflammation of the large intestine. According to internist, Dr. Roger Smalligan, it can cause fever, abdominal pain, and in some cases, death.

"It is spreading," Smalligan said. "It's becoming more and more common and in the past we've only expected it if you've recently been in the hospital or had hospital contact. And more recently, we are having more people show up in our office with these symptoms. We test them and it's C Diff positive. And we treat them. And that would be called a community acquired case and it's not clear to us why it's having such an increase in our communities across the United States, but it is."

Those who have previously taken antibiotics are more susceptible to the bacteria. The reason being is once antibiotics fight off bacteria in your gut, there is nothing left to combat the C. Diff.

"Most of the germs that we encourage people to wash their hands to prevent spread in the hospital, you know, we'll see the gel, the alcohol gel everywhere," Smalligan said. "And that's good for most bacteria. But in fact, with C. Diff that is not enough to clear it from your hands. So if you had it on your hands, you actually need to wash your hands with warm water and soap for about 30 seconds is the most effective way to really clean your hands."

Dr. Smalligan said it can be treated, however one-third of patients see re-occurrence.

"Worse case scenario in a very ill person, it can be very very dangerous because they can develop something called toxic mega colon, where the entire colon is damaged and swells up and doesn't function," Smalligan said. "And believe it or not, those people, their entire colon can be removed to cure the infection."

Currently, local doctors are in the testing phase of creating a cure that could combat the epidemic. The research hasn't been published but we are told the results look promising.