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Severe Clostridium difficile infections in intensive care units: Diverse clinical presentations.

BACKGROUND: Clostridium difficile infections (CDIs) cause significant mortality and morbidity. Critically ill patients are susceptible to CDIs and tend to have severe CDIs, and their clinical presentations are not merely diarrhea.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: From September 2017 to March 2018, the adults with CDIs in the ICUs were included. Fecal specimens with positive results of glutamate dehydrogenase assay were cultured for C. difficile, and toxinotyping and ribotyping for available C. difficile isolates were done. The CDI cases were categorized into the diarrheal group and ileus group. Difficult-to-treat cases with the presentations of life-threatening complications (bowel perforation or bacteremia), toxic megacolon, and refractory diarrhea, were analyzed.

RESULTS: Totally 23 cases, including 6 cases of ileus and 17 of diarrhea, were included. Overall, the incidence of CDI in the ICUs was 10.7 cases per 10,000 patient-days. The ileus group tended to have more severe presentation, shorter ICU stay, higher ICU mortality, and receive initial intravenous metronidazole therapy. Severe and fulminant CDIs accounted for 65.2% (15 cases). The ICU mortality rate was 39.1%, but only one death was directly related to CDI (4.3%). Of nine (39.1%) difficult-to-treat cases, there was only one isolate of RT611 with tcdC deletion and cdtA/cdtB from a case with toxic megacolon. No hypervirulent isolates of RT027 or 078 were detected.

CONCLUSION: Severe CDIs in the ICU were not rare. Clinicians should be aware of abdominal symptoms and signs other than diarrhea, such as ileus, to make timely diagnosis and management of CDI.

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