Enteric infection in relapse of inflammatory bowel disease: importance of microbiological examination of stool

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2004 Aug;16(8):775-8. doi: 10.1097/01.meg.0000131040.38607.09.


Objective: Previous reports have suggested that diarrhoeal relapses of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may be associated or confused with enteric infection, and that treatment of such infections with appropriate antibiotics may be beneficial. To re-evaluate the suggestion that enteric infection is rare and microbiological testing of stool not routinely necessary in patients presenting with relapse of IBD, we have reviewed the incidence of concurrent infection in patients presenting in relapse over a recent 5-year period.

Methods: Stool microbiology results relating to relapses of IBD during the period 1997-2001 were obtained retrospectively. Relapse was confirmed by standard clinical, sigmoidoscopic and laboratory criteria.

Results: During the period 1997-2001 there were 237 relapses in 213 patients. Enteric infection was found in 25 (10.5%) relapses in 24 patients; in seven patients, infection was associated with the initial presentation of their IBD. Clostridium difficile toxin was detected in 13 (5.5%) instances; the 12 other infections (5% relapses) were Campylobacter spp. (five), Entamoeba histolytica (three), Salmonella spp. (one), Plesiomonas shigelloides (one), Strongyloides stercoralis (one) and Blastocystis hominis (one). There was a significant association between infection and the need for hospital admission. Of the 13 relapses associated with C. difficile, ten were in outpatients, seven patients had undergone previous antibiotic treatment, and four patients were presenting with IBD for the first time. All relapses resolved satisfactorily after treatment with antibiotics with or without corticosteroids.

Conclusions: The high prevalence of enteric infections, of which C. difficile was the most common, indicates that all patients presenting with relapse of IBD should have stool examined microbiologically.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Clostridioides difficile*
  • Colitis / microbiology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / microbiology*
  • Crohn Disease / microbiology*
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / microbiology*
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric