Diagnosis of Clostridium difficile infection: an ongoing conundrum for clinicians and for clinical laboratories

Clinical Microbiology Reviews
Carey-Ann D Burnham, Karen C Carroll

Abstract

Clostridium difficile is a formidable nosocomial and community-acquired pathogen, causing clinical presentations ranging from asymptomatic colonization to self-limiting diarrhea to toxic megacolon and fulminant colitis. Since the early 2000s, the incidence of C. difficile disease has increased dramatically, and this is thought to be due to the emergence of new strain types. For many years, the mainstay of C. difficile disease diagnosis was enzyme immunoassays for detection of the C. difficile toxin(s), although it is now generally accepted that these assays lack sensitivity. A number of molecular assays are commercially available for the detection of C. difficile. This review covers the history and biology of C. difficile and provides an in-depth discussion of the laboratory methods used for the diagnosis of C. difficile infection (CDI). In addition, strain typing methods for C. difficile and the evolving epidemiology of colonization and infection with this organism are discussed. Finally, considerations for diagnosing C. difficile disease in special patient populations, such as children, oncology patients, transplant patients, and patients with inflammatory bowel disease, are described. As detection of C. difficile in clinical...Continue Reading

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