Clostridium difficile Guidelines

Clinical Practice Guidelines for Clostridium difficile Infection in Adults and Children: 2017 Update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA)

Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 66, Issue 7, 19 March 2018, Pages e1–e48,

Summary from Infectious Disease Advisor: Updated C difficile Infection Clinical Guidance From IDSA/SHEA

The comprehensive clinical practice guideline …was endorsed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA)…

Recommendations for treatment of CDI in adults… now favors a 10-day course of vancomycin or fidaxomicin rather than metronidazole for first-line therapy of mild/moderate CDI in adults… Fidaxomicin, also a newly recommended first-line therapy for mild/moderate CDI in adults, may reduce the risk for recurrent CDI because of its narrow spectrum compared with vancomycin.

Recommended treatment strategies for recurrent CDI, a complication that occurs in approximately 25% of patients, have also been revised…Following initial CDI treated with a 10-day course of vancomycin, either a several-week tapered and pulsed course of vancomycin or a 10-day course of fidaxomicin is recommended. For most patients, probiotics can be considered because of favorable cost and safety, although definitive efficacy data for probiotics to prevent recurrent CDI are still lacking. For multiply recurrent CDI (ie, at least 3 CDIs), correction of the patient’s underlying intestinal microbiota perturbation with fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) should be strongly considered..

The diagnosis of CDI… Molecular tests (eg, nucleic acid amplification tests [NAATs], such as polymerase chain reaction), which do not differentiate colonization and infection, are now the most commonly used test for CDI among US hospitals. NAATs have the potential to misdiagnose patients with colonization as having CDI, particularly when used in patients with low likelihood of CDI. Thus, this guideline strongly reinforces the importance of practicing good diagnostic stewardship and limiting C difficile testing to patients with new-onset, unexplained, and clinically significant (ie, at least 3 unformed stools in a 24-hour period) diarrhea…formed stools should not be tested for C difficile, nor should patients be retested within 7 days of a previous negative C difficile test. In pediatric populations, because of the unclear role of C difficile as a cause of diarrhea in infants, children less than 12 months of age should not be tested…

If diagnostic stewardship is not an achievable goal, use of NAAT alone is likely to lead to frequent misdiagnosis of CDI among patients with C difficile colonization. In these cases, NAAT alone should be avoided and a multistep algorithm that incorporates toxin testing is recommended.

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Cumberland Island 2018

How to Cultivate Clostridium difficile Infections

The emergence of more frequent and virulent Clostridium difficile infections (CDIs) has generally been attributed to antibiotic usage.  A recent study (J Collins et al Nature 2018; 553, 291–4.  doi:10.1038/nature25178) suggests that changes in our diet are a contributing factor as well.

From Abstract:

Here we show that two epidemic ribotypes (RT027 and RT078) have acquired unique mechanisms to metabolize low concentrations of the disaccharide trehalose. RT027 strains contain a single point mutation in the trehalose repressor that increases the sensitivity of this ribotype to trehalose by more than 500-fold. Furthermore, dietary trehalose increases the virulence of a RT027 strain in a mouse model of infection. RT078 strains acquired a cluster of four genes involved in trehalose metabolism, including a PTS permease that is both necessary and sufficient for growth on low concentrations of trehalose. We propose that the implementation of trehalose as a food additive into the human diet, shortly before the emergence of these two epidemic lineages, helped select for their emergence and contributed to hypervirulence.

From GI & Hepatology News: Food additive makes C difficile more virulent: “Prior to 2000, trehalose was limited by a relatively high cost of production.”  However, with innovations in production, trehalose concentrations in food increased, particularly in ice cream, pasta, and ground beef; “concentration in food skyrocketed form around 2% to 11.25%.”  In addition, the FDA in 2000 noted that trehalose as “generally recognized as safe.”

My take“On the basis of these observations, we propose that the widespread adoption and use of the disaccharide trehalose in the human diet has played a significant role in the emergence of these epidemic and hypervirulent strains,” Dr. Collins and his colleagues wrote in Nature.

Flower Display in Las Vegas Hotel

Cost Effective Fecal Transplantation

A recent retrospective study (DE Brumbaugh et al. J Pediatr 2018; 194: 123-7) examined the effectiveness of intragastric fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) for recurrent Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in 42 children (47 FMTs).

Key findings:

  • 94% (16/17) success in otherwise healthy children
  • 75%  (9/12) success in medically complex children
  • 54% (7/13) success in inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Figure 2 describes cost: nasogastric FMT cost for hospital/professional charges was $1139 compared to $4998 for nasoduodenal FMT and $7767 for colonoscopy FMT

To understand the results better, one needs to look at their methods.  The authors defined CDI based on a positive fecal polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.  All patients undergoing FMT had to have had >2 episodes of CDI.

The authors discuss the issue that asymptomatic Clostridium difficile carriage is common in IBD (“6 times that in healthy controls”) and the fact that true CDI can be difficult to ascertain as the relative contribution of IBD activity can be difficult to separate from CDI.  Interestingly, the authors did not comment on their use of PCR testing to establish infection.

As noted in a previous blog post (Overdiagnosis of Clostridium difficile with PCR assays), immunoassay testing for toxin is likely helpful in equivocal cases.  In an influential JAMA Intern Med study (JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(11):1792-1801.  doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.4114), virtually all CDI-related complications and deaths occurred in patients with positive toxin immunoassay test results. Patients with a positive molecular test result and a negative toxin immunoassay test result had outcomes that were comparable to patients without C difficile by either method.

Other useful points in this study:

  • The authors note that craniofacial anatomy may preclude NG placement in some patients (in some orogastric insertion could be an alternative)
  • Patients at high risk for GERD/aspiration along with general anesthesia patients are “not good candidates for FMT”
  • “If there is concern for undiagnosed IBD or other GI pathology, FMT via colonoscopy may be preferable” as FMT could be diagnostic and therapeutic.

My take: This study confirms the utility of intragastric FMT for recurrent CDI as a cost-effective option.  More careful examination of CDI in patients with IBD could result in determining which patients are most likely to benefit from FMT

Hoover Dam


Related blog posts:

What Happens Four Years After Fecal Microbiota Transplantation?

A recent study (J Jalanka et al. AP&T 2018; 47: 371-9-thanks to Ben Gold for this reference) provide long-term data of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT).

In this study of 84 adult patients who were treated for C difficile infection, 45 who had received FMT and 39 treated with antibiotics, the authors determined the frequency of adverse sequelae at 3.8 years using a retrospective questionnaire.

Key findings:

  • There were no difference in the development of severe diseases between FMT recipients and control patients (eg. IBD, cancer, autoimmune diseases, allergy, and neurological diseases)
  • There were no differences in weight gain
  • FMT patients reported faster improvements in bowel habits and reported that their mental health improved after treatment
  • FMT patients had fewer symptoms of functional gastrointestinal disorders than the control (antibiotic) patients

The authors note that FMT is frequently recommended based on three recurrences of C difficile infection and that their study would support using FMT earlier as a treatment option.

My take: Though a small study, these data suggest that FMT is effective and without long-term consequences.

Oral Capsules for Fecal Microbiota Transplantation

A recent study (D Kao et al.JAMA. 2017;318(20):1985-1993. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.17077showed that oral stool capsules are as effective as stool delivered via colonoscopy for recurrent C difficile infection (RCDI).  Thanks to Ben Gold for this reference.

Findings  In this noninferiority randomized clinical trial that included 116 adults with RCDI, the proportion without recurrence over 12 weeks was 96.2% after a single treatment in a group treated with oral capsules and in a group treated via colonoscopy, meeting the noninferiority margin of 15%.

My take: This study adds to the literature that oral delivery is effective in fecal microbiota transplantation and that capsules could be a convenient way to deliver.

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon

Does Celiac Disease Increase the Likelihood of Clostridium difficile infections?

Thanks to Mike Hart for the following reference:  Risk of Clostridium difficile in patients with Celiac Disease: A Population-Based Study B Lebwohl et al. AJG 2017; doi:10.1038/ajg.2017.400



Patients with celiac disease are at increased risk for infections such as tuberculosis, influenza, and pneumococcal pneumonia. However, little is known about the incidence of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in patients with celiac disease.


We identified patients with celiac disease based on intestinal biopsies submitted to all pathology departments in Sweden over a 39-year period (from July 1969 through February 2008). We compared risk of CDI (based on stratified Cox proportional hazards models) among patients with celiac disease vs. without celiac disease (controls) matched by age, sex, and calendar period.


We identified 28,339 patients with celiac disease and 141,588 controls; neither group had a history of CDI. The incidence of CDI was 56/100,000 person-years among patients with celiac disease and 26/100,000 person-years among controls, yielding an overall hazard ratio (HR) of 2.01 (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.64–2.47; P<0.0001). The risk of CDI was highest in the first 12 months after diagnosis of celiac disease (HR, 5.20; 95% CI, 2.81–9.62; P<0.0001), but remained high, compared to that of controls, 1–5 years after diagnosis (HR, 1.85; 95% CI, 1.22–2.81; P=0.004). Among 493 patients with CDI, antibiotic data were available for 251; there were no significant differences in prior exposures to antibiotics between patients with celiac disease and controls.


In a large population-based cohort study, patients with celiac disease had significantly higher incidence of CDI than controls. This finding is consistent with prior findings of higher rates of other infections in patients with celiac disease, and suggests the possibility of altered gut immunity and/or microbial composition in patients with celiac disease.

Silver Bridge crossing Colorado River. Part of Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail.

Briefly: Notable Recent IBD Publications

Vermeire S et al. Lancet 2017; 389: 266-75.  The “FITZROY ” study examined clinical remission in patients with moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease treated with filgotinib, a orally administered selective JAK inhibitor.  This agent is 30 times more selective fo rJAK1 over JAK3. This study enrolled 174 patients in a phase II study. Key findings:

  • Among patients naive to anti-TNF agents, clinical remission (based on CDAI <150 at week 10) noted in 47% of filgotinib-treated compared with 23% of placebo group (P=.0077)
  • Among patients naive to anti-TNF agents, clinical response was noted in 67% of filgotinib-treated compared with 44% in the placebo group.

H Singh et al. Gastroenterol 2017; 153: 430-8.  Using the large Manitoba Epidemiology Database with 1.3 million population (2005-2014), the authors found that individuals with IBD had a 4.8 fold increase risk of Clostridium difficile infection.

T-D Kanneganti. NEJM 2017; 377: 694-6. This review examined the NLRP3 Inflammasome.  Neudecker et al (J Exp Med 2017; 214: 1737-52) identified microRNA miR-223 which functions “to suppress the Nlrp3 inflammasone during acute colitis.” Other useful points in this review of basic research:

  • “The majority of the immune cells in the body are located in the intestine, where they are spatially separated from more than 10 trillion microorganisms by a layer of mucus and a layer of epithelial cells.  Deterioration of this physical barrier …underlies inflammatory bowel disease.”
  • miR-223 is increased in the inflamed colon. “During inflammation, the expression of miR-223 is also upregulated..and the molecule binds to its complementary sequence in a regulatory part of Nlrp3 mRNA…lead[ing] to decreased Nlrp3 expression and the consequent dampening of interleukin-1β maturation and associated inflammation.”