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Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology
Volume 24, Issue 2, Pages 89-92
Original Article

Combination of Culture, Antigen and Toxin Detection, and Cytotoxin Neutralization Assay for Optimal Clostridium difficile Diagnostic Testing

Michelle J Alfa1,2 and Shadi Sepehri1

1Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
2Diagnostic Services of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Copyright © 2013 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: There has been a growing interest in developing an appropriate laboratory diagnostic algorithm for Clostridium difficile, mainly as a result of increases in both the number and severity of cases of C difficile infection in the past decade. A C difficile diagnostic algorithm is necessary because diagnostic kits, mostly for the detection of toxins A and B or glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) antigen, are not sufficient as stand-alone assays for optimal diagnosis of C difficile infection. In addition, conventional reference methods for C difficile detection (eg, toxigenic culture and cytotoxin neutralization [CTN] assays) are not routinely practiced in diagnostic laboratory settings.

OBJECTIVE: To review the four-step algorithm used at Diagnostic Services of Manitoba sites for the laboratory diagnosis of toxigenic C difficile.

RESULT: One year of retrospective C difficile data using the proposed algorithm was reported. Of 5695 stool samples tested, 9.1% (n=517) had toxigenic C difficile. Sixty per cent (310 of 517) of toxigenic C difficile stools were detected following the first two steps of the algorithm. CTN confirmation of GDH-positive, toxin A- and B-negative assays resulted in detection of an additional 37.7% (198 of 517) of toxigenic C difficile. Culture of the third specimen, from patients who had two previous negative specimens, detected an additional 2.32% (12 of 517) of toxigenic C difficile samples.

DISCUSSION: Using GDH antigen as the screening and toxin A and B as confirmatory test for C difficile, 85% of specimens were reported negative or positive within 4 h. Without CTN confirmation for GDH antigen and toxin A and B discordant results, 37% (195 of 517) of toxigenic C difficile stools would have been missed. Following the algorithm, culture was needed for only 2.72% of all specimens submitted for C difficile testing.

CONCLUSION: The overview of the data illustrated the significance of each stage of this four-step C difficile algorithm and emphasized the value of using CTN assay and culture as parts of an algorithm that ensures accurate diagnosis of toxigenic C difficile.