Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, is a pathogen that infects the digestive tract and kills about 15,000 people and hospitalizes 250,000 each year in the United States. Antibiotics only work about 25% of the time in wiping out this stubborn infection.
In a breakthrough discovery, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine have found that the antioxidant drug ebselen kills C. diff by targeting its toxins, not by killing the bacteria and wiping out beneficial gut microbes at the same time.
These findings were based on mice studies conducted by the researchers, They said, "Human trials could be expedited because the drug is already being investigated for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, stroke, atherosclerosis and cancer."
Senior author Matthew Bogyo, professor of pathology and of microbiology and immunology, said, "Unlike antibiotics, which are both the front line treatment for C. difficile infection and, paradoxically, possibly its chief cause, the drug didn't kill the bacteria. Rather, it disabled a toxin produced by the pathogen and prevented intestinal damage and inflammation."
Researchers said, "C. diff costs the United States more than $4 billion in healthcare expenses and it often recurs in patients, requiring further hospitalization. The infection is particularly perilous for those with weakened immune systems. About 7% of people who are infected die within a month of diagnosis."
The study is published in Science Translation Medicine.