Clostridium difficile (peds)

This page is for pediatric patients; for adult patients see clostridium difficile.


Pseudomembranous colitis with yellow pseudomembranes seen on the wall of the sigmoid colon.
  • Clostridium is a genus of Gram-positive bacteria
  • Most common cause of infectious diarrhea in hospitalized patients
  • Use contact isolation if suspect
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not reduce spores, but good hand washing does[1]

Pediatric Risk Factors

Clinical Features

Varies according to severity and intrinsic host factors (immunosuppression, etc.).

  • Diarrhea that develops during antibiotic use or within 2 weeks of discontinuation
  • Usually occurs after 7-10 days of antibiotics, as diarrhea before that time is more often poor tolerance to antibiotic
  • Recent discharge from hospital
  • Profuse watery diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain/tenderness
  • Fever
  • At the extreme, may present with sepsis secondary to intestinal perforation or toxic megacolon

Differential Diagnosis

Acute diarrhea



Watery Diarrhea

Traveler's Diarrhea


Pseudomembranous colitis from C. difficile on abdominal CT demonstratin diffuse colonic wall thickening and a shaggy endoluminal contour.
Pseudomembranous colitis with (A) Accordion sign in transverse colon (thin arrows). (B) Colonic wall thickness, target sign (thick arrow), peritoneal fluid (thin arrow) and pericolonic fat stranding (arrowhead).


  • C. diff toxin assay
    • Sn 63-94%, Sp 75-100%
  • Culture
    • Positive culture only means C. diff present, not necessarily that it is causing disease

Testing Algorithm

For patients with suspected Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea (CDAD)

  • Low suspicion
    • Send stool for C. diff toxin assay
      • Positive → treat (no further testing indicated)
      • Negative → do not treat (no further testing indicated)
  • High suspicion
    • Send stool for C. diff toxin assay AND treat empirically
      • Positive → treat (no further testing indicated)
      • Negative → Consider discussion with ID (false negative tests may occur); eval for other causes of diarrhea

Repeat testing

  • Never a need for repeat testing within 7 days of a previous test
  • NO NEED to repeat positive tests as symptoms resolve as a “test of cure”
  • NO NEED to repeat test soon after initial negative test (more likely to be a false positive test than a true positive test)


  • Testing in infants < 1 year of age not recommended due to high rates of colonization
    • ~40% of infants < 1 month are colonized and asymptomatic[3]
    • ~15% in infants 6-12 months
    • By 2 years of age, normal flora is established, similar to adults[4]


  • Stop offending antimicrobial agents, if possible
  • Initial occurrence and first recurrence of mild-moderate disease:[5]
  • Severe infection or second recurrence:
    • PO vancomycin 40 mg/kg/d in four divided doses, max 500 mg/day
    • If no improvement after 24-48 hours, oral vancomycin max dose may be increased to 2 g/d
    • Q6hr IV metronidazole, 30 mg/kg/d, may be added to intracolonic/enema vancomycin for ileus, inability to tolerate PO antibiotics
  • Multiple recurrences, other strategies, in consult with pediatric GI:
    • May benefit from tapering and pulse oral vancomycin over 1.5-2 months, as done in adults
    • Consider PO fidaxomicin in ≥ 6 year old patients at 200 mg twice daily for 10 dats


Antibiotic Sensitivities[6]

Category Antibiotic Sensitivity
Penicillins Penicillin G X2
Penicillin V X1
Anti-Staphylocccal Penicillins Methicillin X1
Nafcillin/Oxacillin X1
Cloxacillin/Diclox. X1
Amino-Penicillins AMP/Amox X1
Amox-Clav X1
AMP-Sulb X2
Anti-Pseudomonal Penicillins Ticarcillin X1
Ticar-Clav X1
Pip-Tazo X1
Piperacillin X2
Carbapenems Doripenem X2
Ertapenem X2
Imipenem X2
Meropenem X2
Aztreonam R
Fluroquinolones Ciprofloxacin R
Ofloxacin X1
Pefloxacin X1
Levofloxacin R
Moxifloxacin R
Gemifloxacin X1
Gatifloxacin R
1st G Cephalo Cefazolin X1
2nd G. Cephalo Cefotetan X1
Cefoxitin R
Cefuroxime X1
3rd/4th G. Cephalo Cefotaxime R
Cefizoxime R
CefTRIAXone X1
Ceftaroline X1
CefTAZidime X1
Cefepime R
Oral 1st G. Cephalo Cefadroxil X1
Cephalexin X1
Oral 2nd G. Cephalo Cefaclor/Loracarbef X1
Cefproxil X1
Cefuroxime axetil X1
Oral 3rd G. Cephalo Cefixime X1
Ceftibuten X1
Cefpodox/Cefdinir/Cefditoren X1
Aminoglycosides Gentamicin R
Tobramycin R
Amikacin R
Chloramphenicol I
Clindamycin X1
Macrolides Erythromycin X1
Azithromycin X1
Clarithromycin X1
Ketolide Telithromycin X1
Tetracyclines Doxycycline X1
Minocycline X1
Glycylcycline Tigecycline X1
Daptomycin X1
Glyco/Lipoclycopeptides Vancomycin S
Teicoplanin S
Telavancin S
Fusidic Acid X1
Trimethoprim X1
Urinary Agents Nitrofurantoin X1
Fosfomycin X1
Other Rifampin X1
Metronidazole S
Quinupristin dalfoppristin I
Linezolid I
Colistimethate X1

See Also


  1. Leffler DA and Lamont JT. Clostridium difficile Infection. N Engl J Med. 2015; 372:1539-1548.
  2. Marx et al. “Cholera and Gastroenteritis caused by Noncholera Vibrio Species”. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine 8th edition vol 1 pg 1245-1246.
  3. Asymptomatic colonization by Clostridium difficile in infants: implications for disease in later life. Jangi S, Lamont JT. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010 Jul; 51(1):2-7.
  4. Clostridium difficile Infection in children. Sammons JS, Toltzis P, Zaoutis TE. JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Jun; 167(6):567-73.
  5. D'Ostroph AR and So TY. Treatment of pediatric Clostridium difficile infection: a review on treatment efficacy and economic value. Infect Drug Resist. 2017; 10: 365–375.
  6. Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy 2014