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Stomach Bug Mutates Into Medical Mystery
Date: Tuesday, January 03 2006
Topic:


Stomach Bug Mutates Into Medical Mystery
Antibiotics, Heartburn Drugs Suspected

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 30, 2005; A01

First came stomach cramps, which left Christina Shultz doubled over and weeping in pain. Then came nausea and fatigue -- so overwhelming she couldn't get out of bed for days. Just when she thought things couldn't get worse, the nastiest diarrhea of her life hit -- repeatedly forcing her into the hospital.

Doctors finally discovered that the 35-year-old Hilliard, Ohio, woman had an intestinal bug that used to be found almost exclusively among older, sicker patients in hospitals and was usually easily cured with a dose of antibiotics. But after months of treatment, Shultz is still incapacitated.

"It's been a nightmare," said Shultz, a mother of two young children. "I just want my life back."

Shultz is one of a growing number of young, otherwise healthy Americans who are being stricken by the bacterial infection known as Clostridium difficile -- or C. diff -- which appears to be spreading rapidly around the country and causing unusually severe, sometimes fatal illness.

That is raising alarm among health officials, who are concerned that many cases may be misdiagnosed and are puzzled as to what is causing the microbe to become so much more common and dangerous.

"It's a new phenomenon. It's just emerging," said L. Clifford McDonald of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "We're very concerned. We know it's happening, but we're really not sure why it's happening or where this is going."

It may, however, be the latest example of a common, relatively benign bug that has mutated because of the overuse of antibiotics.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/29/AR2005122901575_pf.html

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