The epidemiology of community-acquired Clostridium difficile infection: a population-based study

Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Jan;107(1):89-95. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2011.398. Epub 2011 Nov 22.


Objectives: Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is a common hospital-acquired infection with increasing incidence, severity, recurrence, and associated morbidity and mortality. There are emerging data on the occurrence of CDI in nonhospitalized patients. However, there is a relative lack of community-based CDI studies, as most of the existing studies are hospital based, potentially influencing the results by referral or hospitalization bias by missing cases of community-acquired CDI.

Methods: To better understand the epidemiology of community-acquired C. difficile infection, a population-based study was conducted in Olmsted County, Minnesota, using the resources of the Rochester Epidemiology Project. Data regarding severity, treatment response, and outcomes were compared in community-acquired vs. hospital-acquired cohorts, and changes in these parameters, as well as in incidence, were assessed over the study period.

Results: Community-acquired CDI cases accounted for 41% of 385 definite CDI cases. The incidence of both community-acquired and hospital-acquired CDI increased significantly over the study period. Compared with those with hospital-acquired infection, patients with community-acquired infection were younger (median age 50 years compared with 72 years), more likely to be female (76% vs. 60%), had lower comorbidity scores, and were less likely to have severe infection (20% vs. 31%) or have been exposed to antibiotics (78% vs. 94%). There were no differences in the rates of complicated or recurrent infection in patients with community-acquired compared with hospital-acquired infection.

Conclusions: In this population-based cohort, a significant proportion of cases of CDI occurred in the community. These patients were younger and had less severe infection than those with hospital-acquired infection. Thus, reports of CDI in hospitalized patients likely underestimate the burden of disease and overestimate severity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community-Acquired Infections / epidemiology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult