Intravenous immunoglobulin for the treatment of Clostridium difficile infection: a review

Dig Dis Sci. 2011 Jan;56(1):19-26. doi: 10.1007/s10620-010-1411-2. Epub 2010 Oct 6.


Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) has increased sharply in incidence, mortality rate, and burden on the healthcare system over the past decade. Therefore, novel treatment modalities have been developed, including intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). The level of immune response to Clostridium difficile colonization is the major determinant of the magnitude and duration of clinical manifestations. This effect is mediated predominantly by serum IgG anti-toxin A antibodies. Based on this finding, anti-toxin A and B antibodies were successfully used in multiple in vitro and in vivo experimental settings to passively immunize hamsters in CDI models. In humans, IVIG was used as the source of those antibodies. Fifteen small, mostly retrospective and non-randomized reports documented IVIG's success in the treatment of protracted, recurrent, or severe CDI. Diarrhea resolution rates were higher in the former patient group, but the recurrence rates were similar. IVIG mechanism of action is neutralization of mainly toxin A through IgG anti-toxin A antibodies. Purified anti-toxin A and B antibodies were successfully used to decrease CDI recurrence rates among patients with no or one previous CDI episodes. In conclusion, the efficacy of IVIG for CDI treatment in animal models has been convincingly demonstrated. However, only few small non-randomized, mostly uncontrolled reports have been published on human subjects. A phase II trial results support the use of purified anti-toxin A and B antibodies to decrease CDI recurrence rates. Therefore, IVIG should currently only be used as adjunct therapy until results from large, randomized controlled trials are available.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clostridioides difficile*
  • Cricetinae
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / drug therapy*
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / epidemiology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / therapeutic use*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous