Asymptomatic Carriers of C difficile Increase Infection Risk in Others

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<i>C difficile</i> infection was detected in 4.6% of patients exposed to asymptomatic carriers. <i>Photo Credit: James Gathany.</i>
C difficile infection was detected in 4.6% of patients exposed to asymptomatic carriers. Photo Credit: James Gathany.

HealthDay News — Asymptomatic carriers of toxigenic Clostridium difficile in hospitals increase infection risk in other patients, according to a study published in Gastroenterology.

Thomas Blixt, MD, from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and colleagues screened all patients for toxigenic C difficile in the intestine upon hospital admission (from October 1, 2012, to January 31, 2013) to assess the rate of C difficile infection in exposed and unexposed patients, as well as transmission factors.

The researchers found that C difficile infection was detected in 2.6% of patients not exposed to carriers and in 4.6% of patients exposed to asymptomatic carriers at the ward level (odds ratio for infection if exposed to carrier, 1.79). 

There was a correlation between amount of exposure and risk of infection, from 2.2% in the lowest quartile to 4.2% in the highest quartile of exposed patients (=.026). There was an additive effect on the risk of contracting C difficile when load of exposure to carriers and length of stay were combined.

"In a population-based prospective cohort study in Denmark, we found that asymptomatic carriers of toxigenic C difficile in hospitals increase risk of infection in other patients," the researchers write.


Blix T, Gradel KO, Homann C, et al. Asymptomatic carriers contribute to nosocomial Clostriduim difficile infection: a cohort study of 4508 patients. Gastroenterology. 2017; 152:1031-1041.e2. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2016.12.035

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