June 01, 2018

Drug reduces risk of recurring C. difficile infection

A case of diarrhea caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile — often referred to as C. difficile — is not soon forgotten. Unfortunately, it's fairly common to have a recurrent infection within a few weeks after treating the initial infection. A new drug — bezlotoxumab (Zinplava) — takes aim at a key toxin that contributes to symptoms and infection persistence.

C. difficile is commonly associated with hospitals or long-term care facilities. However, even reasonably healthy people who are not in these settings can become infected. It's a particular problem for older adults and for those requiring prolonged use of antibiotics for other bacterial infections. If you have a first-time C. difficile infection while on an antibiotic, the first line treatment is usually stopping your current antibiotic and switching to a specific antibiotic that's effective against C. difficile. Although infection specific antibiotics are often initially successful at treating a C. difficile infection, about 25 to 35 percent of people have a recurrent infection. The risk of having additional infections rises even higher after an initial recurrence.

A recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that a one-time intravenous infusion of bezlotoxumab administered in conjunction with antibiotic therapy for treatment of C. difficile can reduce the risk of recurrence from 26 to 28 percent to 16 to 17 percent — a 10 percent absolute reduction. The results of this trial were convincing enough for the drug to gain approval for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

Bezlotoxumab is a fairly...