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Clostridium difficile: microbiology and infection

By Luke S P Moore, MSc, FRCPath, Nick Cooley, DipClinPharm, and Mark Gilchrist, MSc, MRPharmS

Clostridium difficileThe bacterium Clostridium difficile was first described in 1935, but its role as a human pathogen was not discovered until 1978, when it was identified as being responsible for cases of pseudomembranous colitis.1,2


Clostridium difficile is a Gram-positive anaerobic bacterium that produces spores. It is a common cause of healthcare-associated infection. Although C difficile infection (CDI) can be asymptomatic, clinical manifestations range from mild diarrhoea through to pseudomembranous colitis and toxic megacolon.

Risk factors for the development of CDI include antimicrobial exposure, current or recent hospital admission, age (it is more common in people over 65 years of age) and proton pump inhibitor use. Healthcare organisations must have strategies in place to manage patients with CDI.

Luke S P Moore is specialist registrar in microbiology and infectious diseases and Mark Gilchrist is consultant pharmacist in infection, both at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Nick Cooley is lead clinical pharmacist for anti-infectives at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.


Citation: Clinical Pharmacist URI: 11107951

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