In honor of his late mother, Christian John Lillis is raising awareness about a deadly germ.

“We lose 30,000 a year to C. diff and less than 40% of our population has even heard of it,” Lillis said. “We want people to know C. diff exists.”

C. diff – short for Clostridioides difficile – claimed the life of Lillis’ mother, Peggy, through a routine root canal procedure. She had been prescribed clindamycin, an antibiotic, for a suspected abscess and soon after, thinking she had caught a stomach virus, Peggy was rushed to the hospital. Diagnosed with sepsis, she died the next day at the age of 56.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” said Lillis, a gay Brooklynite. “If anything, it gets more acute. My mother would have been 69 this year.”

Through the Peggy Lillis Foundation, Lillis and his brother Liam strive to keep their mother’s memory alive with education and advocacy. C. diff infects the large intestine causing hard-to-treat diarrhea and colitis, an inflammation of the colon.

Lillis wants to decrease the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in patients and farm animals, which erodes good bacteria. Another prevention tactic is to petition the CDC to make C. diff a nationally, notifiable disease.

“That will give us a much clearer picture of the epidemiology — what is driving it and is dentistry driving this?” Lillis asked.

November is C. diff awareness month. A comprehensive list by state of providers, regulatory information, clinical trials and advocacy groups can be found at