WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new antibiotic to treat an intestinal infection that afflicts more than 700,000 U.S. patients each year and can sometimes prove fatal.

Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s Dificid tablets were approved to treat an infection called Clostridium difficile that usually affects older patients. It can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to potentially life-threatening inflammation of the colon.

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Dificid is the first new drug approved for the infection in nearly 25 years, according to the company.

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The FDA approved the drug based on company trials that showed it worked about as well as an older medication, vancomycin, at treating the infection. The drug proved even more effective at preventing re-infection three weeks after treatment than the older drug.

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