Pets, kids could be source of C. diff spread to community, study shows

Community-associated Clostridium difficile cases could be caused by household transmission of the bacteria to pets and children after a patient has been treated for the infection, according to a study in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

The study examined 51 patients treated for C. diff in a hospital or outpatient setting, along with members of their households, including pets. Researchers visited the houses monthly to collect stool samples or rectal swabs and test them for C. diff.

They found nine of the 67 human household contacts (13.4 percent) had C. diff in their stool or rectal samples, and most of those colonized people (66 percent) were under five years old. Just one affected household member developed diarrhea.

Of the 15 pets in the households, more than a quarter (26.7 percent) were found to be C. diff carriers, and the strains they carried were indistinguishable or closely related to those of the human contacts, meaning the bacteria could be spread between species.

"Our research suggests that household transmission from patients with C. diff infection could be responsible for a bacterial reservoir for community-associated cases," said Vivian Loo, MD, an infectious disease specialist and the study's lead author.

"It is important that everyone follows simple hygienic practices, like hand-washing with soap and water, even in your own home," she said.

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