Send to

Choose Destination
Digestion. 1999 Mar-Apr;60(2):91-100.

Pseudomembranous colitis: causes and cures.

Author information

University of Washington, Seattle, Wash., USA.


Clostridium difficile is the most common nosocomial pathogen of the gastrointestinal tract and has increased in frequency over time. Typical symptoms of C. difficile infection include diarrhea, which is usually nonbloody, or colitis associated with severe abdominal pain, fever and/or gross or occult blood in the stools. Pseudomembranous colitis (PMC), the severest form of this disease, occurs as a result of a severe inflammatory response to the C. difficile toxins. This review focuses on PMC, as this severe form is associated with the greatest medical concern. Diagnosis rests on detection of C. difficile in the stool, either by culture, tissue culture assay for cytotoxin B or detection of antigens in the stool by rapid enzyme immunoassays. Oral therapy with metronidazole 250 mg 4 times a day for 10 days is the recommended first-line therapy. Vancomycin is also effective, but its use must be limited to decrease the development of vancomycin-resistant organisms such as enterococci. Vancomycin (125-500 mg 4 times a day for 10 days) should be limited to those who cannot tolerate or have not responded to metronidazole, or when metronidazole use is contraindicated, as in the first trimester of pregnancy. A therapeutic response within a few days is usual. Recurrence of symptoms after antibiotics occurs in 20% of cases and is associated with persistence of C. difficile in the stools. Further recurrences then become more likely. Therapy with antibiotics in a pulsed or tapered regimen is often effective as are efforts to normalize the fecal flora. The yeast Saccharomyces boulardii has been proven in controlled trials to reduce recurrences when given as an adjunct to antibiotic therapy. Careful hand washing and environmental decontamination are necessary to prevent epidemics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for S. Karger AG, Basel, Switzerland
Loading ...
Support Center