This article by Prechter et al was published in Critical Care in October 2017. The full text of the article can be accessed via this link.
Over the last years, there was an increase in the number and severity of Clostridium difficile infections (CDI) in all medical settings, including the intensive care unit (ICU). The current prevalence of CDI among ICU patients is estimated at 0.4-4% and has severe impact on morbidity and mortality. An estimated 10-20% of patients are colonized with C. difficile without showing signs of infection and spores can be found throughout ICUs. It is not yet possible to predict whether and when colonization will become infection. Figuratively speaking, our patients are sleeping with the enemy and we do not know when this enemy awakens. Most patients developing CDI in the ICU show a mild to moderate disease course. Nevertheless, difficult-to-treat severe and complicated cases also occur. Treatment failure is particularly frequent in ICU patients due to comorbidities and the necessity of continued antibiotic treatment. This review will give an overview of current diagnostic, therapeutic, and prophylactic challenges and options with a special focus on the ICU patient. First, we focus on diagnosis and prognosis of disease severity. This includes inconsistencies in the definition of disease severity as well as diagnostic problems. Proceeding from there, we discuss that while at first glance the choice of first-line treatment for CDI in the ICU is a simple matter guided by international guidelines, there are a number of specific problems and inconsistencies. We cover treatment in severe CDI, the problem of early recognition of treatment failure, and possible concepts of intensifying treatment. In conclusion, we mention methods for CDI prevention in the ICU.