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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2001 Aug;7(8):405-10.

Epidemiology of Clostridium difficile-associated infections.

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Research Group on Clostridium difficile, Center Hospitalo-Universitaire Saint-Antoine, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France.


Clostridium difficile is responsible for 15-25% of cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) and for virtually all cases of antibiotic-associated pseudomembranous colitis (PMC). This anaerobic bacterium has been identified as the leading cause of nosocomial infectious diarrhea in adults and can be responsible for large outbreaks. Nosocomial C. difficile infection results in an increased length of stay in hospital ranging from 8 to 21 days. Risk factors for C. difficile-associated diarrhea include antimicrobial therapy, older age (>65 years), antineoplastic chemotherapy and length of hospital stay. Other interventions with high risk associations are enemas, nasogastric tubes, gastrointestinal surgery and antiperistaltic drugs. Prospective studies have shown that nosocomial transmission of C. difficile is frequent but often remains asymptomatic. Patients can be contaminated from environmental surfaces, shared instrumentation, hospital personnel hands and infected roommates. Once an outbreak starts, C. difficile may be spread rapidly throughout the hospital environment where spores may persist for months. Measures that are effective in reducing incidence of C. difficile infections and cross-infection include: (i) an accurate and rapid diagnosis, (ii) appropriate treatment, (iii) implementation of enteric precautions for symptomatic patients, (iv) reinforcement of hand-washing, (v) daily environmental disinfection, and (vi) a restrictive antibiotic policy. C. difficile is a common cause of infectious diarrhea and should be therefore systematically investigated in patients with nosocomial diarrhea.

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