Scientists have found that a dangerous bacterium capable of causing serious gut infections is triggered by excess calcium in its environment, but the triggering factor might also provide the solution.
Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that chiefly affects older patients living in nursing homes, or those who have been confined to a hospital environment for a long time. Research shows that people most at risk are those undergoing long-term broad-spectrum antibiotic treatments, which weaken the immune system and leave patients vulnerable to infectious diseases.
Spores of C. difficile are spread through feces, contaminating any objects or surfaces they come into contact with. The most common means of further transmission is through the hands of healthcare professionals, who unwittingly come into contact with contaminated items.
C. difficile infection can cause a wide array of bowel ailments, with the least serious being diarrhea and the most dangerous being colitis, or inflammation of the colon, which leads to death in some cases.
The bacterium forms spores that are extremely hard to kill, rendering the complete disinfection of contaminated surfaces very difficult.
Calcium nourishes C. difficile
The research laboratories of the University of Michigan Medical School (U-M) in Ann Arbor, together with those of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have studied the conditions necessary for C. difficile to release its spores.
The teams were led by Travis Kochan and Philip Hanna, Ph.D., both from U-M, and Dr. Paul Carlson, Ph.D., from the FDA, and their results were recently published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
It was discovered that excess calcium causes C. difficile to germinate. This finding sheds new light as to…