Researchers Explore C. difficile Colonization Among Healthcare Workers

Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) has increased to epidemic proportions in recent years, and the carriage of C. difficile among healthy adults and hospital inpatients has been established. Friedman et al. (2013) sought to determine whether C. difficile colonization exists among healthcare workers (HCWs) in their setting.

A point prevalence study of stool colonization with C. difficile among doctors, nurses and allied health staff at a large regional teaching hospital in Geelong, Victoria was conducted. All participants completed a short questionnaire and all stool specimens were tested by Techlab® C.diff Quik Check enzyme immunoassay followed by enrichment culture.

Among 128 healthcare workers, 77 percent were female, of mean age 43 years, and the majority were nursing staff (73 percent). Nineteen HCWs (15 percent) reported diarrhea, and 12 (9 percent) had taken antibiotics in the previous six weeks. More than 40 percent of participants reported having contact with a patient with known or suspected CDI in the six weeks before the stool was collected. C. difficile was not isolated from the stool of any participants.

Although HCWs are at risk of asymptomatic carriage and could act as a reservoir for transmission in the hospital environment, with the use of a screening test and culture the researchers say they were unable to identify C. difficile in the stool of participants in a non-outbreak setting. This may reflect potential colonization resistance of the gut microbiota, or the success of infection prevention strategies at the institution. Their research was published in BMC Infectious Diseases.

Reference: Friedman ND, Pollard J, Stupart D, Knight DR, Khajehnoori M, Davey EK, Parry L and Riley TV. Prevalence of Clostridium difficile colonization among healthcare workers. BMC Infectious Diseases 2013, 13:459 doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-459