Laboratory diagnosis ofClostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea

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Abstract

This paper reviews the various laboratory procedures available for the isolation and identification ofClostridium difficile and the detection of toxins produced by this organism. Laboratories should be selective in determining which patients require investigation forClostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea. Transport and storage of stool specimens at 4 °C is recommended when delays in processing may occur. Tissue culture techniques are still the best method for detection of cytotoxin and a variety of cell lines can be used. Other methods for detecting cytotoxin, and methods for detecting other toxins are not sufficiently developed yet to warrant introduction into diagnostic laboratories. Culture techniques remain the most sensitive for diagnosis, particularly since the development of a variety of enrichment techniques. Cycloserine cefoxitin fructose agar is still adequate, although reduced concentrations of antimicrobial agents are necessary, and improvements, such as the addition of sodium taurocholate, increase the recovery of spores. Enrichment cultures have markedly increased isolation rates forClostridium difficile but the significance of these isolates needs to be carefully evaluated. Until simpler and more reliable tests are available in clinical laboratories for the detection of toxins, the isolation ofClostridium difficile from patients with diarrhoeal disease should be considered paramount.