- Reference Number: HEY-156/2023
- Departments: Infection Prevention and Control
- Last Updated: 1 August 2023
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This leaflet has been produced to give you general information. Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet. It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and the healthcare team, however may act as a starting point for discussion.
If after reading it, if you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.
What is Clostridium difficile?
Clostridium difficile lives in the bowel and can be present in low numbers in healthy adults. However, if the number of Clostridium difficile bacteria increases then it can cause illness. This can occur following treatment with antibiotics because the bacteria are able to flourish in the absence of other bacteria, which have been reduced or killed by the antibiotics.
What are the symptoms of Clostridium difficile illness?
The main symptom of Clostridium difficile illness is diarrhoea which can last for days or weeks if left untreated. The bacteria produce toxins that can affect the bowel and cause additional symptoms which can include fever, abdominal pain and nausea.
How did I get clostridium difficile?
People who have been on antibiotic therapy are more susceptible to acquiring Clostridium difficile, as are those over 65 years of age and anyone who has recently undergone abdominal surgery.
How is Clostridium difficile spread?
The bacteria produce spores, which contaminate the environment during the diarrhoea stage. These spores can be easily picked up and spread to other susceptible patients.
How is clostridium difficile diagnosed?
As a patient unexpectedly experiencing diarrhoea, you would be tested for Clostridium difficile especially if you have recently been taking or have completed a course of antibiotics. A stool (poo) sample will be sent to the laboratory for testing to look for a toxin produced by the Clostridium bacteria.
How is clostridium difficile treated?
This usually involves commencing an appropriate course of oral antibiotics specifically aimed at reducing the Clostridium bacteria in the bowel. Your medical team will review the antibiotics you are taking, if you are on any other antibiotics. Treatment is usually successful but occasionally patients can relapse and it may be necessary to have another course of oral antibiotics, if symptoms re-occur.
Should I take any special precautions?
If you have symptoms of diarrhoea you will be moved into a single room until your bowel habits return to normal. If your room does not have en-suite facilities you may be asked to use a commode (specifically located portable toilet) to reduce the risk of it spreading to other patients. Staff will wear gloves and aprons when performing your care. This is to minimise the risk of spread to other patients. To prevent the spread of Clostridium difficile hands must be thoroughly washed with soap and water rather than using alcohol hand gel.
Do visitors need to do anything differently?
To prevent the spread of clostridium difficile to other patients or elsewhere in the hospital, visitors must:
- Always wash their hands with soap and water before going into your room and after leaving your room
- Do not eat food at your bed side
- Do not use your en-suite bathroom, if you have one
- Do not sit on your bed
- Visitors who feel unwell should not visit you
- Visitors who have had a recent infection or illness should discuss with your nursing team for advice before they visit you
- Children and babies are more prone to any type of infection and are advised not to visit
- Visitors can still touch you e.g. hold your hand etc. they must wash their hands before leaving your room with soap and water
- Visitors performing or assisting with direct patient care are also required to wear gloves and aprons
Who can I contact with any queries or concerns I may have?
If you, your family or carers have any questions or concerns surrounding VRE. Please contact Hull University Teaching Hospitals Infection Prevention and Control Team (IPCT) via the below contact routes:
Telephone: 01482 623967
Please use the space below to write any questions you may have for your clinical team or infection prevention control team.
This leaflet was produced by the Infection Prevention and Control Department, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and will be reviewed in 2026.
General Advice and Consent
Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.
Consent to treatment
Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.
The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:
- you must be able to give your consent
- you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
- you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person
Information about you
We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.
We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.
Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.
If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.