Clostridium difficile associated infection, diarrhea and colitis

Perry Hookman, Jamie S. Barkin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

207 Scopus citations


A new, hypervirulent strain of Clostridium difficile, called NAP1/BI/ 027, has been implicated in C. difficile outbreaks associated with increased morbidity and mortality since the early 2000s. The epidemic strain is resistant to fluoroquinolones in vitro, which was infrequent prior to 2001. The name of this strain reflects its characteristics, demonstrated by different typing methods: pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (NAP1), restriction endonuclease analysis (BI) and polymerase chain reaction (027). In 2004 and 2005, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasized that the risk of C. difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD) is increased, not only by the usual factors, including antibiotic exposure, but also gastrointestinal surgery/manipulation, prolonged length of stay in a healthcare setting, serious underlying illness, immune-compromising conditions, and aging. Patients on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have an elevated risk, as do peripartum women and heart transplant recipients. Before 2002, toxic megacolon in C. difficile-associated colitis (CDAC), was rare, but its incidence has increased dramatically. Up to two-thirds of hospitalized patients may be infected with C. difficile. Asymptomatic carriers admitted to healthcare facilities can transmit the organism to other susceptible patients, thereby becoming vectors. Fulminant colitis is reported more frequently during outbreaks of C. difficile infection in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). C. difficile infection with IBD carries a higher mortality than without underlying IBD. This article reviews the latest information on C. difficile infection, including presentation, vulnerable hosts and choice of antibiotics, alternative therapies, and probiotics and immunotherapy. We review contact precautions for patients with known or suspected C. difficile-associated disease. Healthcare institutions require accurate and rapid diagnosis for early detection of possible outbreaks, to initiate specific therapy and implement effective control measures. A comprehensive C. difficile infection control management rapid response team (RRT) is recommended for each health care facility. A communication network between RRTs is recommended, in coordination with each country's department of health. Our aim is to convey a comprehensive source of information and to guide healthcare professionals in the difficult decisions that they face when caring for these oftentimes very ill patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1554-1580
Number of pages27
JournalWorld Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Apr 7 2009


  • Clostridium difficile
  • Colitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastroenterology
  • Iatrogenic infection
  • Nosocomial infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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