A mutant strain of diarrhea is pushing the condition's ongoing epidemic, the national Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said.
Severe Clostridium difficile diarrheal disease is caused by a bug carried unknowingly by about 3 percent of the U.S. population, WebMD.com said Friday. Most antibiotics that kill normal bacteria don't affect C. diff, which is attacked by normal bacteria found in the body.
Once confined to elderly, hospitalized patients, the new strain is infecting young, non-hospitalized people, WebMD.com said.
Symptoms range from mild diarrhea to life-threatening colon infection, WebMD.com said. The new strain can produce up to 20 times more of the toxins that normal C. diff produces, the medical Web site said.
Scientists said several factors may have caused the bug to mutate, WebMD.com said. These include the bug's becoming resistant to commonly used antibiotics and certain heartburn drugs being linked to C. diff infections. Or, possibly, a new bug is moving across the globe.
Scientists at the University of Illinois have studied the antibiotic vancomycin's effect on the new C. diff strain, WebMD.com said. So far, the mutant strain hasn't shown resistance to the antibiotic.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International
Explore further: Harmless bacteria may be helpful against meningococcal outbreaks