Clostridia is a rod shaped, spore forming bacteria that lives in soil and the intestinal tract of humans and animals. Most clostridia species are harmless, even helpful, but a few can be pathogenic to humans. Clostridium tetani (tetanus) and Clostridium botulinum (botulism) are the most potent of them.
The clostridia species of common concern to children on the autism spectrum is Clostridium difficil (AKA C-diff). C-diff causes diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions such as colitis. These conditions generally result from overgrowth of Clostridium difficile in the colon, usually after the normal intestinal flora has been disturbed by antibiotics.
C. difficile produces two toxins that attack the lining of the intestines: Toxin A and Toxin B. Toxin A is referred to as an enterotoxin because it causes fluid accumulation in the bowel. It causes bloating and diarrhea, with abdominal pain, which may become severe. Toxin B is a cytopathic toxin, which means that it causes pathological changes in the function or form of a cell, leading to its death.
Symptoms of a clostridia (C-diff) overgrowth:
- Watery diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Blood or pus in the stool
- Weight loss
Testing for clostridia can be done through several methods, which include tissue sample, urine sample or stool sample.
To treat a C-diff infection, doctors typically prescribe a 10-day course of one of the following oral antibiotics:
Metronidazole (Flagyl) – Usually tried first
In addition to prescribed medications, treatment may include Probiotics to re-introduce good colonizing bacteria into the digestive system. S. Boulardii is the only probiotic that can actually kill C-diff. It can be purchased over the counter.
Another helpful probiotic organism is Lactobacillus which can be found in Culturelle, or Lactobacillus casei GG, which is also available over the counter.
This website explains more natural methods of treating C-diff.
Improvement in symptoms is typically seen within 72 hours after starting antibiotics, but the diarrhea may return temporarily.
When C-diff is threatened, it has the ability to develop a cell wall, developing a resistance to antibiotics or probiotics, thus C-diff infections return in about 25%-50% of all treated cases. If this occurs, a pulsing protocol may be needed. A pulsing protocol is where you give the antibiotic and/or probiotic for 2 days, then take 2 days off, 2 days on, 2 days off etc. During those off-days, the C-diff determines that it is no longer under attack and will come out of the protective cell wall.
In severe cases, a Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) may be necessary, which has a 90% cure rate.
If you think that you or your child may have a C. diff infection, speak to your doctor before using an anti-diarrhea medicine. Stopping the diarrhea could actually make the C. diff infection worse.