(The Best Years in Life) A few years ago an issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report featured a story about a deadly bacterial illness commonly seen in people on antibiotics but that now appears to be growing more common in patients not taking such drugs. The bacterium is Clostridium difficile, also known as C-diff. It's symptoms include diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and nausea, and last year it was blamed for 100 deaths over 18 months in just one hospital in Quebec, Canada. And in a second article in the New England Journal of Medicine, health officials said samples of the same bacteria taken from eight US hospitals show it's mutating to become even more resistant to antibiotics. Especially disturbing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recent cases in four states indicate it's now appearing more often in healthy people who have not been admitted to health-care facilities or even taken antibiotics. The bottom line is that C-diff has grown resistant to antibiotics that work against other colon bacteria. How did this happen? Quite simply, when patients took those antibiotics, particularly clindamycin, competing bacteria died off and C-diff exploded.
But this article isn't about C-diff. C-diff is merely the headline trigger. What we want to talk about is why and how bacteria like C-diff and viruses like bird flu develop resistance to antibiotics and antiviral drugs. And more importantly…what you can do about it.