Health Check: Vaccine trial to help prevent common deadly infection

Jennie and Ed Wachowicz have been married 61 years.

Last year was perhaps one of their most challenging years. That's when Jennie, who underwent three surgeries, contracted an infection known as Clostridium difficile or C. diff.

"It started in the hospital," Jennie said.

And it landed her back in the hospital four more times with uncontrollable diarrhea. She was dehydrated.

"C. diff is a bacterial infection that affects the intestine and it can cause severe and very protracted, very long lasting diarrhea," said Dr. Marguerite Neill, who works at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island.

C. diff is commonly caused by antibiotics, but it's also treated with antibiotics. The problem is the infection can recur.

That's what happened to Jennie.

"I didn't know if I was ever going to come out of the hospital," she said.

And when she wasn't hospitalized, she felt like prisoner.

"If you're home, you can't go out. I just was very depressed," Jennie said.

Earlier this year, however, she underwent a new procedure and hasn't had a symptom since.

"It is an infection the CDC has now identified as a major health threat," Neill said.

And that's what has led to a new clinical study testing a new vaccine.

"We know that the germ itself is producing toxins and the toxins are what's doing the dirty work to make the person feel so ill, have fever and have severe diarrhea. So what's been done is to create a vaccine that is based on the toxins that are inactive," Neill said.

Memorial Hospital is one of 200 sites worldwide taking part in the trial. The hospital is recruiting people 50 and older who have surgery planned in the next 60 days that will require hospitalization or people who have been hospitalized twice in the last year.

Formore information about the Cdiffense Phase III clinical trial, contactLiz Coccio, R.N., of Memorial Hospital at 401-729-2183.