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Absence of Clostridium difficile stool carriage in asymptomatic volunteers

Introduction / objectives

Clostridium difficile is considered a leading cause of hospital-acquired diarrhea. Currently there are published case-reports of symptomatic Health-Care-Workers (HCW) and one report demonstrating transmission of C. diff from patient to HCW. Therefore, we initiated a prospective study to evaluate the prevalence of asymptomatic C. difficile stool carriage among healthcare workers at a single university hospital comparing them to non-healthcare workers to asses the risk for HCW’s acquiring Clostridium difficile.


The study population consisted of 113 healthy HCW’s of clinical departments with a high incidence of CDI in inpatients. The 128 controls were taken from the administration department of a Food Company and from frozen stool samples of healthy subjects from a colon cancer screening program. Both groups were comparable in age-and sex-distribution. From April to July 2010, in total 241 stool specimens were tested for toxigenic culture of C diff.. 51% of stool samples (58/113) of the study population and all control-samples (n=128) were confirmed by broth enrichment technique at the National Reference Laboratory for C. difficile in Vienna.


Both investigated study-groups (n-total = 241) were negative for Clostridium difficile by both culture techniques (direct plating and broth enrichment method).


We conclude, therefore, that healthy HCWs are probably not at risk for aquiring C diff spores from contacts with CDI-patients. They are themselves no risk for spreading C. diff spores in health-care facilities. Data about C.diff carriage in the community (up to 3%) demonstrates a possible overestimation.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Hell, M., Sickau, K., Chmelizek, G. et al. Absence of Clostridium difficile stool carriage in asymptomatic volunteers. BMC Proc 5 (Suppl 6), P183 (2011).

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  • Stool Sample
  • Clostridium Difficile
  • Stool Specimen
  • Cancer Screening Program
  • Enrichment Method