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Christian John Lillis on What More Needs to Be Done to Combat C difficile


To combat C difficile, Christian John Lillis, cofounder and executive director of the Peggy Lillis Foundation for C. Diff Education & Advocacy, noted that awareness and innovation must continue to increase.

Christian John Lillis, cofounder and executive director of the Peggy Lillis Foundation for C. Diff Education & Advocacy (PLF), listed what more needs to be done to combat Clostridioides difficile during November, which is National C Difficile Awareness Month, and beyond.

PLF, which was founded in response to the death of 56-year-old Peggy Lillis from an infection caused by C difficile, is the leading national organization dedicated to combating C difficile infections by educating the public, shaping policy, and empowering advocates.


What still needs to be done to combat C difficile?

In terms of what we need to do to continue to combat C difficile, we definitely need to keep increasing awareness. That's something that we invest a lot of time and energy into; people need to know about C difficile so that they can prevent it. We have an enormous issue with the overuse of antibiotics. 50% of antibiotics prescribed in this country are medically either unnecessary or inappropriate, meaning the person doesn't have a bacterial infection, or they're not given the right dose, or they're given too broad an antibiotic when they could have a more narrow one.

I think people have considered antibiotics to just be like, I take it, it fixes a thing in me. They don't realize the systemic effects they [antibiotics] have, including on your gut microbiome, that they can make you susceptible to this other infection [C difficile]. So, we're hoping that the more people know about C difficile, the more judicious they will be in their use of antibiotics.

If somebody needs an antibiotic, we want them to get it as soon as possible. My mom ultimately died from sepsis, that's what most people with C difficile die from, so we're certainly not looking for anybody who really needs an antibiotic to not get one, but if you have a viral cold, it's not going to even help. So, that's what we want to add, and we feel like if more people knew about this potentially dangerous side effect, they would be more cautious.

We are really committed to getting C difficile to be designated as a nationally notifiable disease; I think that's really critical. There are diseases that are nationally notifiable that kill 2 people a year, this kills 30,000; the proportionality needs to be accounted for.

Lastly, I would say that we really need to keep innovating. We need to keep learning and figuring out, how do we prevent this? Some of the community acquired cases, they haven't even taken an antibiotic in the past 6 weeks, so there's an uncertainty as to why, and these tend to be younger people, even children, who are getting a C difficile infection, and we're not quite sure what the precipitating event was. Is it that we have antibiotics in our food? Are there other things degrading our gut microbiome? There's some evidence that having COVID degrades your gut microbiome.

So, those are the kinds of things where we feel like there's still a lot of work to be done out there, and I think the good news of having these new therapies and starting to increase awareness is that we can continue to push on these bigger issues, and that's what we're hoping to do.

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