Antibiotic prescribing policy and Clostridium difficile diarrhoea

QJM. 2004 Jul;97(7):423-9. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hch076.


Background: Broad-spectrum antibiotics, particularly intravenous cephalosporins, are associated with Clostridium difficile diarrhoea. Diarrhoea due to C. difficile is a growing problem in hospitals, especially among elderly patients.

Aim: To establish whether changing an antibiotic policy with the aim of reducing the use of injectable cephalosporins leads to a reduction in the incidence of C. difficile diarrhoea in elderly patients.

Design: Retrospective analysis.

Methods: A group of patients who were subject to the new antibiotic policy from the period following July 2000, were compared with patients who were admitted prior to July 2000 and were not subject to the new policy. Infections, antibiotic prescriptions and mortality rates were determined from case notes, and C. difficle diarrhoea rates from microbiological data.

Results: Intravenous cephalosporin use fell from 210 to 28 defined daily doses (p < 0.001) following the change in antibiotic policy, with a corresponding increase in piperacillin-tazobactam (p < 0.001) and moxifloxacin (p < 0.001) use. The new policy led to a significant reduction in C. difficile diarrhoea cases. The relative risk of developing C. difficile infection with the old policy compared to the new policy was 3.24 (95%CI 1.07-9.84, p = 0.03).

Discussion: The antibiotic policy was successfully introduced into an elderly care service. It reduced both intravenous cephalosporin use and C. difficile diarrhoea.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Cephalosporins / administration & dosage
  • Cephalosporins / adverse effects
  • Clostridium difficile*
  • Cross Infection / chemically induced
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Diarrhea / chemically induced
  • Diarrhea / microbiology
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control*
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / chemically induced
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / epidemiology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Cephalosporins