Combination of Culture, Antigen and Toxin Detection, and Cytotoxin Neutralization Assay for Optimal Clostridium difficile Diagnostic Testing
Alfa, Michelle J
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BACKGROUND: There has been a growing interest in developing an appropriate laboratory diagnostic algorithm for Clostridium difficile, mainly as a result of increases in both the number and severity of cases of C difficile infection in the past decade. A C difficile diagnostic algorithm is necessary because diagnostic kits, mostly for the detection of toxins A and B or glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) antigen, are not sufficient as stand-alone assays for optimal diagnosis of C difficile infection. In addition, conventional reference methods for C difficile detection (eg, toxigenic culture and cytotoxin neutralization [CTN] assays) are not routinely practiced in diagnostic laboratory settings.OBJECTIVE: To review the four-step algorithm used at Diagnostic Services of Manitoba sites for the laboratory diagnosis of toxigenic C difficile.RESULT: One year of retrospective C difficile data using the proposed algorithm was reported. Of 5695 stool samples tested, 9.1% (n=517) had toxigenic C difficile. Sixty per cent (310 of 517) of toxigenic C difficile stools were detected following the first two steps of the algorithm. CTN confirmation of GDH-positive, toxin A- and B-negative assays resulted in detection of an additional 37.7% (198 of 517) of toxigenic C difficile. Culture of the third specimen, from patients who had two previous negative specimens, detected an additional 2.32% (12 of 517) of toxigenic C difficile samples.DISCUSSION: Using GDH antigen as the screening and toxin A and B as confirmatory test for C difficile, 85% of specimens were reported negative or positive within 4 h. Without CTN confirmation for GDH antigen and toxin A and B discordant results, 37% (195 of 517) of toxigenic C difficile stools would have been missed. Following the algorithm, culture was needed for only 2.72% of all specimens submitted for C difficile testing.CONCLUSION: The overview of the data illustrated the significance of each stage of this four-step C difficile algorithm and emphasized the value of using CTN assay and culture as parts of an algorithm that ensures accurate diagnosis of toxigenic C difficile.