Breakthrough "hair of the dog" superbug treatment could beat C. diff

One of the deadliest germs in the country may have just met its match

Clostridium difficile, aka C. diff, sickens 500,000 Americans every year and kills 29,000 -- and in many cases, it's getting difficult or even impossible to treat as the bacteria becomes resistant to many drugs.

But there's a potent new weapon in the fight against C. diff... and it's not a new drug.

It's the C. diff bacteria itself.

Cutting-edge new research finds that a non-toxic strain of C. diff can overwhelm its deadly brothers, take control and help ensure that you don't get sick.

This is one of the basic principles of probiotic therapy, of course, as "good" bacteria are known to fight and overwhelm the bad ones that can make you sick. The key is in finding the right good bug to kill off the bad ones -- and in this case, it's the very same germs that cause the superbug infection in the first place.

What makes it so effective is that it does an end run around the very trait that makes C. diff so deadly in the first place: stubbornness.

C. diff is typically treated with antibiotics and in many cases the drugs work -- at first.

But for nearly a third of all patients, it comes back.

When that stubborn trait rears its ugly head, you're in serious trouble, because the second infection is often resistant to the very drug that worked the first time around.

In the new study, 125 patients who fought off C. diff with antibiotics were given this probiotic form of the bacteria after treatment to see if it would stop it from coming back.

And it worked like gangbusters!

Six weeks later, just 11 percent of the patients suffered a second infection instead of the expected 30 percent. And in one group of patients given an even higher dose, that rate plummeted all the way down to 5 percent.

While this is encouraging, I think there's an even better way to use this therapy -- and that's to give it to patients BEFORE the disease strikes, not just after.

Why let anyone suffer the misery of a C. diff infection in the first place?

We already know who's likely to get infected: Patients given an antibiotic for another, unrelated, infection and usually seniors, especially those in hospitals and care facilities.

The drug kills off the first infection as well as most of the good bacteria in your gut. But since C. diff is resistant, it survives -- and without much competition from good bacteria in your gut, it thrives.

It grows unchecked, and you get sick with diarrhea so severe it could kill you.

If the new treatment is as effective as this study suggests, then clearly the best time to start using it would be any time a patient is given an antibiotic, especially patients in care facilities.

It's not clear when this safe form of C. diff will be available to the public, but in the meantime there's another natural option. A strain of probiotic yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii, available in any decent vitamin shop, can prevent C. diff and even help treat the infection if you have it.

If you take an antibiotic, I recommend taking a probiotic blend with S. boulardii both during your treatment and for several weeks afterward.