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Clin Infect Dis. 2007 Oct 15;45(8):992-8. Epub 2007 Sep 4.

Asymptomatic carriers are a potential source for transmission of epidemic and nonepidemic Clostridium difficile strains among long-term care facility residents.

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  • 1Research Service, Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Asymptomatic fecal carriage of Clostridium difficile is common in patients staying in health care facilities, but the importance of asymptomatic carriers with regard to disease transmission is unclear.

METHODS:

We prospectively examined the prevalence of asymptomatic carriage of epidemic North American pulsed-field gel electrophoresis type 1 and nonepidemic toxigenic C. difficile strains among long-term care patients in the context of an outbreak of C. difficile-associated disease and evaluated the frequency of skin and environmental contamination. Molecular typing was performed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Logistic regression was used to assess factors associated with asymptomatic carriage, and a sensitive and specific prediction rule was developed to identify high-risk patients.

RESULTS:

Thirty-five (51%) of 68 asymptomatic patients were carriers of toxigenic C. difficile, and 13 (37%) of these patients carried epidemic strains. Compared with noncarriers, asymptomatic carriers had higher percentages of skin (61% vs. 19%; P=.001) and environmental contamination (59% vs. 24%; P=.004). Eighty-seven percent of isolates found in skin samples and 58% of isolates found in environmental samples were identical to concurrent isolates found in stool samples. Spores on the skin of asymptomatic patients were easily transferred to investigators' hands. Previous C. difficile-associated disease (P<.001) and previous antibiotic use (P=.017) were associated with asymptomatic carriage, and the combination of these 2 variables was predictive of asymptomatic carriage (sensitivity, 77%; specificity, 58%; positive predictive value, 66%; negative predictive value, 70%).

CONCLUSIONS:

Our findings suggest that asymptomatic carriers of epidemic and nonepidemic C. difficile strains have the potential to contribute significantly to disease transmission in long-term care facilities. Clinical factors, such as previous C. difficile-associated disease and recent antibiotic use, may be predictive of asymptomatic carriage.

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PMID:
17879913
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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