Prospective study of the risk of Clostridium difficile diarrhoea in elderly patients following treatment with cefotaxime or piperacillin-tazobactam

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1998 Dec;12(12):1217-23. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.1998.00428.x.


Background: Rates of Clostridium difficile diarrhoea have recently been rising, with the elderly being at highest risk.

Aim: To compare the incidence of C. difficile colonization and diarrhoea in elderly patients treated for presumed infection with either empirical cefotaxime (CTX) or piperacillin-tazobactam (PT).

Methods: A prospective, ward-based, crossover study was carried out on two well-matched care of the elderly wards at a UK tertiary care hospital, in patients requiring empirical broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment.

Results: There was a highly significant increased incidence of C. difficile colonization (26/34 vs. 3/14, P=0.001) and diarrhoea (18/34 vs. 1/14, P=0.006) in patients who received CTX as opposed to PT. DNA fingerprinting suggested that most infections arose from strains acquired from the hospital environment.

Conclusions: Elderly patients are significantly less likely to develop C. difficile diarrhoea after treatment with PT than after CTX. The source of C. difficile appears to be predominantly from the ward environment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cefotaxime / adverse effects*
  • Clostridioides difficile
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diarrhea / microbiology*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / etiology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Opportunistic Infections / microbiology
  • Penicillanic Acid / adverse effects
  • Penicillanic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Piperacillin / adverse effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tazobactam
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors*


  • Drug Combinations
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors
  • Penicillanic Acid
  • Cefotaxime
  • Tazobactam
  • Piperacillin