Review| Volume 103, ISSUE 4, P375-381, December 2019

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Approaches to the detection of Clostridioides difficile in the healthcare environment

  • R.J. Grainger
    Corresponding author. Address: Department of Clinical Microbiology, RCSI Education and Research Centre, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland. Tel.: +353 18093748.
    Department of Clinical Microbiology, RCSI Education and Research Centre, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
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  • N.T. Stevens
    Department of Clinical Microbiology, RCSI Education and Research Centre, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
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  • H. Humphreys
    Department of Clinical Microbiology, RCSI Education and Research Centre, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

    Department of Microbiology, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
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Published:August 24, 2019DOI:


      Clostridioides difficile, a spore-forming bacillus, is a major cause of healthcare-associated infection, and can survive for prolonged periods in the inanimate environment. Environmental sampling to detect C. difficile is not routine but may be undertaken as part of outbreak management and during research projects. We conducted a literature search covering the period between 1980 and 2018 to review methods for the detection of this pathogen in the environment. There are many acceptable sampling methods used for environmental screening, including contact plates, cotton swabs, flocked swabs and sponges. Most recent studies suggest that sponges are the most effective method of sampling and have the added benefit of being capable of sampling larger and curved areas. Culture methods are the most common laboratory method of detecting C. difficile from environmental samples. However, the results are variable depending on the type of agar used and the turnaround times can be long. Molecular methods such as real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), although more commonly used to detect C. difficile from faecal specimens, has been used with varying degrees of success in environmental sampling. Further studies are needed to determine whether molecular techniques could offer a more reliable, faster method of environmental sampling, giving infection prevention and control teams more reassurance that patients are being placed in adequately decontaminated hospital environments.


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