The Importance of C. difficile Diagnostics

Improper diagnosis of C. difficile can lead to patient harm

C. difficile diagnosis can be challenging. It is possible to be a carrier of C. difficile, meaning that the bacteria is present, but is not producing disease-causing toxins that make people sick. It is important to properly differentiate people with a true C. difficile infection from C. difficile carriers. Treating C. difficile carriers may make people more susceptible to a true C. difficile infection. Antibiotic treatments for the initial infection may also be unnecessarily stopped.

There are three types of diagnostic tests for C. difficile :

What do the guidelines say?

Because so many people are C. difficile carriers, the Infectious Disease Society of America(IDSA), Society for Healthcare and Epidemiology of America (SHEA), and the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases(ESCMID) all suggest using a toxin test to help differentiate patients with active disease from those who are simply carriers.