Colonization with Gastrointestinal Pathogens Prior to Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and Associated Clinical Implications

Jeffrey Kubiak, Emily Davidson, Rosemary Soave, Rosy Priya Kodiyanplakkal, Amy Robertson, Koen van Besien, Tsiporah B. Shore, John R. Lee, Lars F. Westblade, Michael J. Satlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Infectious diarrhea following hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) significantly contributes to morbidity and mortality. Most HCT recipients experience diarrhea in the post-transplantation period, and infectious pathogens are frequently detected during diarrheal episodes. However, little is known about how frequently these patients are colonized with gastrointestinal (GI) pathogens before their transplantation and whether colonization predicts future diarrheal illness. We sought to determine how frequently HCT recipients are colonized with GI pathogens before HCT and the degree to which pre-HCT colonization predicts post-transplantation infectious diarrheal illness. We conducted a prospective cohort study of allogeneic and autologous HCT recipients at a single center between December 2016 and January 2019. Stool samples were collected during the week before HCT, and formed samples were evaluated for the presence of 22 diarrheal pathogens using the BioFire FilmArray GI panel. We determined the frequency with which participants were colonized with each pathogen and identified factors associated with colonization. We then determined how frequently pretransplantation colonization led to post-transplantation diarrheal infections due to the colonizing pathogen and whether colonization was associated with increased number of days of post-transplantation diarrhea during the transplant hospitalization. We enrolled 112 asymptomatic patients (allogeneic, 61%; autologous, 39%) who had a formed stool specimen before HCT, of whom 41 (37%) had a GI pathogen detected. The most commonly detected organisms were Clostridioides difficile (n = 21; 19%), Yersinia enterocolitica (n = 9; 8%), enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) (n = 6; 6%), and norovirus (n = 5; 4%). Female sex and previous C. difficile infection were associated with C. difficile colonization, and having non-Hodgkin lymphoma was associated with being colonized with a diarrheal pathogen other than C. difficile. Thirteen of 21 patients (62%) with pretransplantation C. difficile colonization developed a clinical C. difficile infection post-transplantation, and 8 of 10 patients (80%) colonized with EPEC or enteroaggregative E. coli developed post-transplantation infections due to their colonizing pathogen. Pretransplantation C. difficile colonization was also associated with an increased duration of post-transplantation diarrhea (P = .048). Conversely, none of the 9 patients with pretransplantation Yersinia enterocolitica colonization developed a post-transplantation Y. enterocolitica infection. Patients admitted for HCT are frequently colonized with a diverse range of GI pathogens. Colonization with C. difficile colonization and diarrheagenic E. coli is frequently associated with post-transplantation diarrheal infections caused by these organisms, but the clinical significance of colonization with other GI pathogens is not clear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499.e1-499.e6
JournalTransplantation and Cellular Therapy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy


  • Colonization
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal pathogens
  • Hematopoietic cell transplant
  • Multiplexed PCR


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