February 9, 2011

New Drug Attacks Clostridium Difficile

By Rhonda Craig, IBN Health Correspondent

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Every year, tens of thousands of people in the United States get sick from Clostridium difficile (CDI), but new research shows a new antibiotic could help fight against the spread of this nasty stomach bug.

CDI can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. In recent years, CDI infections have become more frequent and more difficult to treat. Recent studies show the disease is killing more and more patients each year.

Current treatments for CDI infection have been inadequate. The bug is commonly treated with Vancomycin, but nearly one in three patients who recover from a CDI infection suffers a relapse within 30 days. This high relapse rate contributes to hospital outbreaks, as many patients have to return to the hospital for treatment.

For this study, researchers tested out a new drug called Fidaxomicin. Researchers studied 629 patients with CDI infections. Half of the patients received the new drug, and the other half received Vancomycin. Researchers reported that about 88 percent of those treated with Fidaxomicin and 85 percent of those treated with Vancomycin were cured. However, significantly fewer patients taking the new antibiotic had a recurrence of infection compared to those taking Vancomycin.

"The most exciting aspect of this research is the ability of the new medication, Fidaxomicin, to reduce the recurrent rate of CDI by almost half.  No treatment of CDI has been able to reduce the recurrence rate, until now. Recurrences of CDI are a huge burden to the patient, their caregiver, and to the hospitals," Dr. Mark A. Miller, study co-author, and Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Miller added that Fidaxomicin is not presently available on the market, but the FDA is expected to make a decision on whether or not to approve the drug in May. If approved, the medication could be available in the United States towards the end of 2011.

SOURCE: NEJM, February 3, 2011