New Diarrhea Danger for Children
Diarrhea-Causing Germ C. difficile Now Affecting Children
March 10, 2010 -- A dangerous diarrhea-causing germ once thought to only
affect the elderly and seriously ill is now affecting a growing number of
healthy children in the U.S.
A new report shows the rates of hospitalization for illness caused by the
bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) in otherwise
healthy children nearly doubled between 1997 and 2006.
Researchers found the number of C. difficile-related hospitalizations
among children increased from 4,626 in 1997 to 8,417 in 2006, equivalent to a
9% increase each year.
“Children 1-4 years of age were as a group most likely to have a
hospitalization that was [Clostridium difficile] related, and newborns
were the least likely,” write researcher Marya D. Zilberberg, of the University
of Massachusetts, and colleagues in Emerging Infectious Disease.
But researchers say the actual rate of C. difficile infection among
newborns may be much higher because of current recommendations against testing
newborns for the germ.
Diarrhea Danger Spreading
Clostridium difficile is a toxic strain of bacteria that can cause
severe disease in massive outbreaks and has been associated with a growing
number of hospitalizations and deaths in adults.
They say the increase in C. difficile infection among children is
similar to that found among adults during the same period. But it is unclear
whether the Clostridium difficile infection was present when the
children were first admitted to the hospital or whether they developed the
infection while hospitalized.
In any case, researchers say the pattern of C. difficile infection is
changing rapidly, and a better understanding of how this germ affects children
is urgently needed.