Environmental contamination in households of patients with recurrent Clostridium difficile infection

Megan K. Shaughnessy, Aleh Bobr, Michael A. Kuskowski, Brian D. Johnston, Michael J. Sadowsky, Alexander Khoruts, James R. Johnson

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32 Scopus citations


Recurrent Clostridium difficile infection (R-CDI) is common and difficult to treat, potentially necessitating fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT). Although C. difficile spores persist in the hospital environment and cause infection, little is known about their potential presence or importance in the household environment. Households of R-CDI subjects in the peri-FMT period and of geographically matched and age-matched controls were analyzed for the presence of C. difficile. Household environmental surfaces and fecal samples from humans and pets in the household were examined. Households of post-FMT subjects were also examined (environmental surfaces only). Participants were surveyed regarding their personal history and household cleaning habits. Species identity and molecular characteristics of presumptive C. difficile isolates from environmental and fecal samples were determined by using the Pro kit (Remel, USA), Gram staining, PCR, toxinotyping, tcdC gene sequencing, and pulsedfield gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Environmental cultures detected C. difficile on ≥1 surface in 8/8 (100%) peri-FMT households, versus 3/8 (38%) post-FMT households and 3/8 (38%) control households (P = 0.025). The most common C. difficile-positive sites were the vacuum (11/27; 41%), toilet (8/30; 27%), and bathroom sink (5/29; 17%). C. difficile was detected in 3/36 (8%) fecal samples (two R-CDI subjects and one household member). Nine (90%) of 10 households with multiple C. difficile-positive samples had a single genotype present each. In conclusion, C. difficile was found in the household environment of R-CDI patients, but whether it was found as a cause or consequence of R-CDI is unknown. If household contamination leads to R-CDI, effective decontamination may be protective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2686-2692
Number of pages7
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2016

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© 2016, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


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