Clostridium difficile: Epidemiology, Pathogenesis, Management, and Prevention of a Recalcitrant Healthcare-Associated Pathogen.
ABSTRACT Clostridium difficile is the leading cause of healthcare-associated infectious diarrhea. Although C difficile is part of normal flora in some healthy individuals, patients with selective risk factors are often vulnerable to the toxigenic potential of this virulent healthcare pathogen. The spectrum of C difficile infection (CDI) is highly variable, ranging from mild to severe illness, presenting with single to multiple disease recurrences. Current approaches to treatment are based on severity of illness, number of recurrences, and clinical presentation. Oral vancomycin and metronidazole have formed the foundation for treatment of CDI, but therapeutic failures are commonly reported, especially involving hypervirulent clones. Alternative therapies, including newer antimicrobials, probiotics, immunotherapy, and fecal transplantation, have all met with varying degrees of efficacy. Although toxigenic culture (TC) testing from anaerobic culture remains the gold standard, newer technologies, including enzyme immunoassay, common antigen (glutamate dehydrogenase) testing, and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are less time-consuming and rapid. However, TC and PCR have reported high specificity and sensitivity when compared with other laboratory tests. Because of the significant morbidity and mortality associated with CDI, a high index of suspicion is warranted. Prevention and eradication of CDI require a multidisciplinary approach, including early disease recognition through appropriate surveillance, implementation of effective contact isolation strategies, adherence to environmental controls, judicious hand hygiene, evidence-based treatment, and management that includes antibiotic stewardship, continuous education of healthcare workers, and administrative support.