Clostridioides difficile infection: Update on management

Anne Mounsey, Kelly Lacy Smith, Vinay C. Reddy, Sarah Nickolich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of Clostridioides difficile infection have recently been updated. Risk factors include recent exposure to health care facilities or antibiotics, especially clindamycin. C. difficile infection is characterized by a wide range of symptoms, from mild or moderate diarrhea to severe disease with pseudomembranous colitis, colonic ileus, toxic megacolon, sepsis, or death. C. difficile infection should be considered in patients who are not taking laxatives and have three or more episodes of unexplained, unformed stools in 24 hours. Testing in these patients should start with enzyme immunoassays for glutamate dehydrogenase and toxins A and B or nucleic acid amplification testing. In children older than 12 months, testing is recommended only for those with prolonged diarrhea and risk factors. Treatment depends on whether the episode is an initial vs. recurrent infection and on the severity of the infection based on white blood cell count, serum creatinine level, and other clinical signs and symptoms. For an initial episode of nonsevere C. difficile infection, oral vancomycin or oral fidaxomicin is recommended. Metronidazole is no longer recommended as first-line therapy for adults. Fecal microbiota transplantation is a reasonable treatment option with high cure rates in patients who have had multiple recurrent episodes and have received appropriate antibiotic therapy for at least three of the episodes. Good antibiotic stewardship is a key strategy to decrease rates of C. difficile infection. In routine or endemic settings, hands should be cleaned with either soap and water or an alcohol-based product, but during outbreaks soap and water is superior. The Infectious Diseases Society of America does not recommend the use of probiotics for prevention of C. difficile infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-175
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican family physician
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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