Background: C. difficile infections (CDI) are significant with more than 400,000 cases and almost 30,000 deaths annually. However, there is uncertainty regarding asymptomatic C. difficile carriers and whether they have higher rates of progression to symptomatic infections.
Study design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Large university hospital in the New York from July 2017 through March 2018.
Synopsis: Patients admitted were screened, enrolled, and tested to include an adequate sample of nursing facility residents because of prior studies that showed nursing facility residents with a higher prevalence of carriage. Patients underwent perirectal swabbing and stool swabbing if available. Test swab soilage, noted as any visible material on the swab, was noted and recorded. Two stool-testing methods were used to test for carriage. A C. difficile carrier was defined as any patient with a positive test without diarrhea. Patients were followed for 6 months or until death; 220 patients were enrolled, with 21 patients (9.6%) asymptomatic C. difficile carriers. Having a soiled swab was the only statistically significant characteristic, including previous antibiotic exposure within the past 90 days, to be associated with carriage; 8 of 21 (38.1%) carriage patients progressed to CDI within 6 months versus 4 of 199 (2.0%) noncarriage patients. Most carriers that progressed to CDI did so within 2 weeks of enrollment. Limitations included lower numbers of expected carriage patients, diarrhea diagnosing variability, and perirectal swabbing was used rather than rectal swabbing/stool testing.
Bottom line: Asymptomatic carriage of C. difficile has increased risk of progression to symptomatic CDI and could present an opportunity for screening to reduce CDI in the inpatient setting.
Citation: Baron SW et al. Screening of Clostridioides difficile carriers in an urban academic medical center: Understanding implications of disease. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2020;41(2):149-53.
Dr. Wang is a hospitalist and associate professor of medicine at University of Texas Health, San Antonio.