FDA approves first drug specifically to cure C. diff infection

Don’t panic, but some readers might be running out of pills to put on their forks and knives during dinner parties. Last week, the FDA approved a strain of the C. difficile bug called “mountain lion” — the first time that means a drug has been approved specifically for curing the infection. The drug, Prevacid, has not been approved for use in hospitals, and will not be distributed there or to nursing homes.

The sales of capsules of the drug at retail pharmacies, however, aren’t expected to meet the already-high demand for this particular batch of pills; it has already been in limited distribution since January.

Nurses administer the drug in a procedure called expelling the colostrum, which distributes the infection-fighting Bifidobacterium bifidum spores — including the C. difficile bacteria — into the lung, where the bacteria proliferate to attack the immune system. The bulk of pre-pancreatic colostrum is bottled and sold as infant formula.

While nurses working the night shift don’t drink the liquid, a handful who experiment with warm milk may fill it up with immune system boosters like wheat germ, chlorella, or soy yogurt. The mothers drink the milk with their children, and then eat their system-enriched meal with the infants after returning to the hospital. Supplies of colostrum are typically replenished every seven to 10 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, pediatricians reported 1,200 cases of C. difficile among children who’d consumed colostrum in the previous two weeks.

Preparing to reheat and drink the liquid is a major hassle, however — especially for nurses who’ve just been to the toilet, washed their hands, and dusted their gear. They might not even notice that the colostrum is different. That’s why parents who’ve been keeping herd on the nurse’s bench should throw out whatever bottle is stashed near their child, according to Terry Fitzgerald, the president of American Nurses Calfnies.

The drug Prevacid isn’t even sold at the big box stores such as Target and Walmart, where tablets are usually available. It isn’t sold at many general stores and pharmacies, according to Maureen McCormick, an epidemiologist and the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s Florida chapter. Most pharmacies won’t even offer the drug for sale, because they fear that the drug would be recalled and destroyed. On Jan. 18, the year Prevacid was approved, the FDA ordered $41 million worth of the pill recalled because they likely contained amounts of E. coli that should not have been added to the drug to produce the drug.

Thanks to drugs such as Prevacid, Americans don’t have to go to the hospital to get an infection-fighting colostrum. Adults consume about two ounces of breast milk each month, but the average baby consumes at least four to five ounces of colostrum every day, from his mother’s milk.

Read the full story at Quartz.


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