What is Infectious Colitis?
Infectious colitis, also known as pseudomembranous colitis, is an infectious inflammation of the colon due to the presence and overgrowth of the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. difficile). Most cases of infectious colitis are related to prolonged stays in the hospital, including most of the time antibiotic treatment for any other reason. This is a serious affection and is more common in people over 60 years old.
Infectious Colitis Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms related to infectious colitis can appear a few days after you start taking some antibiotic or even start several weeks after finishing your antibiotic treatment. The symptoms are unspecific and can simulate other intestinal affections. Some of the symptoms include:
- Watery diarrhea
- Mild fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Mucus in your stools
Infectious Colitis Common Causes
Normally, the colon has a certain amount of “good bacteria”, known as bacterial flora, that cause no harm and avoid the colonization and infection of some other pathological bacteria. Some medications, especially antibiotics, can disturb and destroy the balance in bacterial flora. As a consequence, pathological bacterium like C. difficile, can appear and rapidly outgrow in the colon, causing serious damages in the colon mucosae due to its toxins production.
Although almost any antibiotic can cause infectious colitis, there are some antibiotics especially related with this condition, including:
- Fluoroquinolones, like ciprofloxacin.
- Amoxicillin and ampicillin.
Infectious Colitis Diagnosis
Your doctor might suspect the diagnosis of infectious colitis in case you show the symptoms describe below, and if you have been taking some antibiotics for another condition. To complete the diagnosis suspension, your doctor might perform some of the following tests:
- Stool sample, which detects the presence of C. difficile
- Blood tests, which usually show an abnormally high blood cell count, indicating an infection in your body
- Colonoscopy. Here, your doctor uses a large tube attached to a camera to examine the inside of your colon. In case of infectious colitis, there will be some pseudomembranes caused by the bacteria, which are some raised, yellow and swallowed lesions in the colon mucosae
Infectious Colitis Treatment
If the presence of C. difficile is confirmed, it’s very important to eliminate this bacterium due to the severe possible complications related. Some of the strategies to treat infectious colitis include:
- If possible, your doctor will stop your antibiotic treatment suspected to be the cause of your symptoms. In some cases, this action might be enough to solve the problem
- In case your symptoms are not getting better, your doctor will start a new treatment with an antibiotic effective against C. difficile, like metronidazole, vancomycin, fidaxomicin, alone or combined
- Fecal microbial transplantation. If your condition is extremely severe, you might be given a transplant of stool to restore the balance of your bacterial flora. The procedure involves placing the fecal donation from a healthy donor into your digestive system by using a nasogastric tube or by placing it directly into the colon