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Volume 16, Number 10—October 2010

Clostridium difficile Infections among Hospitalized Children, United States, 1997–2006

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To the Editor: Zilberberg et al. described a notable increase in rates of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI)–related hospitalizations of children during 1997–2006 on the basis of analysis of data from 2 national administrative databases (1). As the authors acknowledge, they used administratively coded databases, which have inherent misclassification and testing biases.

Detection of C. difficile toxin indicates that bowel flora have been perturbed. However, the clinical role of toxin detection or isolation of C. difficile organisms in children is controversial. Although primary CDI is a recognized pathologic entity in children, one needs to consider whether another etiology related to a concomitant infection, antimicrobial drug administration, or alteration in enteral nutrition may be the precipitating event resulting in C. difficile toxin production.

It is our clinical observation that availability of testing for C. difficile and rapidity of assay results play a role in the submission of stool specimens for analysis. In 2007, we conducted a 5-month retrospective chart review of C. difficile testing practices at 2 local tertiary-care pediatric hospitals. Of 796 stool specimens submitted, 42 (5%) were notable for the detection of toxin A or B; these samples represented 35 patients (2). Medical coders likely face the same challenges as clinicians who must interpret toxin assay results and their clinical role with regard to hospitalized children. Although the ≈2-fold increase in CDI-associated hospitalization rates reported by Zilberberg et al. in their time series and cross-sectional analyses is notable, these results should be interpreted within the context of clinical and epidemiologic factors contributing to generation of this data.


Stephen M. Vindigni and Andi L. Shane

Author affiliations: Author affiliation: Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA



  1. Zilberberg  MD, Tillotson  GS, McDonald  LC. Clostridium difficile infections among hospitalized children, United States, 1997–2006. Emerg Infect Dis. 2010;16:6049.PubMed
  2. Vindigni  SM, Sullivan  DH, Shane  AL. To treat or not to treat? Optimizing pediatric Clostridium difficile management. Poster presented at Fifth Decennial International Conference on Healthcare-Associated Infections; 2010 Mar 18–22; Atlanta, GA, USA.


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DOI: 10.3201/eid1610.100637

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Table of Contents – Volume 16, Number 10—October 2010

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