Objectives: To prospectively study the prevalence of nosocomially acquired Clostridium difficile, a major cause of diarrhoea in hospitalized patients, in the intensive care units (ICUs) and burn unit (BUs) of three teaching hospitals in Kuwait.
Methods: During a 1-year prospective study, stool/rectal swabs were obtained from 344 patients admitted into the ICUs of Mubarak Hospital (ICU-1), the Kuwait Cancer Control Centre (ICU-2), and the BU of Ibn Sina Hospital. The presence of C. difficile and/or its toxin was detected by serially culturing the specimens on differential, selective and enriched media and the use of TOX-A/B test, on admission and at subsequent 1-weekly interval until discharge.
Results: Out of the 344 patients admitted into these units, over a study period of 1 year, only 263 (77%) were evaluable. All of them had negative stool culture/toxin on admission. Overall, 25 (9.5%) of these 263 patients acquired C. difficile during their hospitalization. Thirteen (7%) of 187 patients acquired C. difficile in ICU-1, 9 (36%) of 25 on ICU-2 and 3 (5.9%) of 51 patients in BU. Eight (32%) developed diarrhoea attributable only to C. difficile and/or toxin, and the remaining 17 (68%) were asymptomatic: none had pseudomembranous colitis. The diarrhoea in these patients was associated with antibiotic use, the main trigger-antibiotics being the third-generation cephalosporins. Acquisition occurred within 4-53 days of admission, with the majority occurring in the first 15 days.
Conclusion: Overall, the prevalence of hospital-acquired C. difficile infection/colonization was less than 10%. The use of third-generation cephalosporins was high and was related to the development of diarrhoea. Once acquired, diarrhoea developed in about one third of C. difficile-positive cases, an indication that C. difficile infection/colonization endemic in the hospital ICUs studied is usually transmitted among the hospitalized patients.