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Vitamin D deficiency may drastically increase risk of clostridium difficile infection

Posted on: December 9, 2014   by  Vitamin D Council


A recent case-control study found that people with a vitamin D status below 15 ng/ml are at a five times increased risk of developing a clostridium difficile infection.

There are more than 1,000 types of microorganisms found in the human digestive tract, many of which are harmless or helpful. However, when the balance of microorganisms is disrupted, harmful bacteria can grow and make you sick. This is the case with clostridium difficile infection (CDI).

CDI is thought to occur when the normal bacteria in the stomach is compromised, usually due to antibiotic treatment. In CDI, the infection replaces the normal gut flora and overruns the “good bacteria” in your intestines.

Mild cases result in abdominal cramps and diarrhea for several days. Severe cases may be life threatening. It is estimated that CDI kills about 14,000 people each year in the United States.

Researchers have hypothesized that vitamin D may play a role in CDI due its antimicrobial properties. Vitamin D stimulates the production of an anti-microbial protein called cathelicidin, which has been shown to help reduce the severity of CDI.

In the present study, researchers wanted to determine the relationship between CDI and vitamin D status.

They enrolled 58 participants with CDI who had their vitamin D status checked within 12 months before their infection and 58 healthy participants to serve as a control group.

The researchers compared the vitamin D levels between the two groups to see if vitamin D status related to any factors of CDI.

They found that participants with vitamin D levels lower than 15 ng/ml were 5.1 times more like to develop CDI than those with levels of 30 ng/ml or above.

“In summary, patients with CDI were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency (<15 ng/mL), and this association persisted as an independent risk factor in logistic regression models even after adjusting for potential confounders,” the researchers concluded.

The researchers call for further prospective studies to confirm their findings.


Sahay T. et al. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with community-acquired clostridium difficile infection: a case-control study. BMC infectious diseases, 2014.

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