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The People’s Pharmacy: Asthma-infection link raises questions

Q. I have asthma and have found that the drugs my doctors prescribe don’t do very much for me. I was intrigued by something you wrote about asthma being caused by infection. Both my family physician and my specialist say this is bogus. What is the evidence?

A. There is increasing evidence that some cases of hard-to-treat asthma are triggered by a chronic lung infection. To learn about the research behind this approach and the antibiotic treatment that has been used successfully, you may be interested in the book “A Cure for Asthma? What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You – and Why,” by Dr. David Hahn. You can share it with your physicians so they can review the science for themselves.


Q. A friend of mine almost died from C. diff diarrhea that she developed after taking the antibiotic clindamycin. She had to be hospitalized for two weeks.

She was scheduled for a stool transplant, but her husband got her into a clinical trial for a drug called Dificid. After two weeks on this antibiotic, she recovered, and she has now been well for several years.

Shouldn’t doctors and dentists be more careful about prescribing clindamycin, considering the horrible effects of this infection?

A. C. diff is shorthand for Clostridium difficile infections. When these bacteria take over the colon, they can cause dreadful diarrhea that can be quite difficult to treat. Antibiotics such as clindamycin can kill off some of the normal intestinal flora and throw it out of balance, allowing C. diff to dominate and wreak havoc.

Dificid (fidaxomicin) was approved in 2011 specifically for treating Clostridium difficile intestinal infections. Adverse reactions of this drug include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomachache and headache. Another side effect is financial: A 10-day course of Dificid can cost more than $3,000.

An alternate treatment is fecal transplant. A recent review found that a liquid suspension of stool from a healthy donor (administered by colonoscopy, enema or nasogastric tube) is a safe and effective method for treating C. diff infections (Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology online, Jan. 16, 2014).