Skip directly to local search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Volume 16, Number 4—April 2010


Etymologia: Clostridium difficile

Article Contents

[klos-trid′e-əm di-fi -sil′]

Clostridium, the genus name of these gram-positive, spore-forming, anaerobic bacteria comes from Greek klōstēr (spindle) because, under the microscope, the colonies resemble spindles used in cloth weaving and long sticks with a bulge at the end. The species name difficile is a form of the Latin adjective difficilis because when first identified (by Hall and O’Toole in 1935), the organism was difficult to isolate and grew slowly in pure culture. However, likely because of the familiarity of a French term with the same spelling and meaning, the French pronunciation has become widely used. These bacteria are part of the commensal intestinal flora in humans, and toxigenic strains of the organism can cause pseudomembranous colitis, a severe infection of the colon, after normal gut flora have been eradicated in patients who have received antimicrobial drugs.

Sources: Kelly CP, Pothoulakis C, LaMont JT; Clostridium difficile colitis. N Engl J Med. 1994;330:257–62; Wells J. My phonetic blog. 2006.;; Dorland’s illustrated medical dictionary, 31st ed. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.

DOI: 10.3201/eid1604.E11604

Related Links

Top of Page

Table of Contents – Volume 16, Number 4—April 2010

Comments to the EID Editors

Please contact the EID Editors via our Contact Form.


Past Issues

Select a Past Issue:

World Malaria Day - April 25, 2014 - Invest in the future, defeat malaria

Art in Science - Selections from Emerging Infectious Diseases
Now available for order

CDC 24/7 – Saving Lives, Protecting People, Saving Money. Learn More About How CDC Works For You… The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO