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Clostridium difficile( C. difficile) are bacteria that live in your large intestine, or colon, all the time. They usually don't cause problems. But sometimes, something causes the bacteria to grow. When there are too many of them, they release harmful substances called toxins.
When the toxins are released, the colon becomes irritated and swollen. This problem is called C. difficilecolitis.
C. difficile can be passed from person to person. But the infection is most common in people who take antibiotics or have taken them recently. Antibiotics are drugs used to kill bacteria that cause infection. But they also can destroy some of the normal "good" bacteria in the colon that keep C. difficilefrom growing and releasing toxins.
C. difficileis also common in older people who are in hospitals and nursing homes and in people who are getting chemotherapy for cancer.
The C. difficile toxins test looks at a stool sample to see if those toxins are present. A positive result means you need treatment for colitis.
The test is done to see if diarrhea that won't go away was caused by C. difficile toxins.
You do not need to do anything special to prepare for this test.
Tell your doctor if you have recently taken antibiotics.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
Stool samples can be collected at home. Or you may need to go to your doctor's office, a medical clinic, or the hospital. If you collect the sample at home, you may be given a special container.
You may need to collect more than one sample. Follow the same steps for each sample.
To collect the sample:
Take the sample to your doctor's office or the lab as soon as you can. You may need to take your sample to the lab within a certain time, usually within 30 minutes or less of collecting it. Tell your doctor if you think you may have trouble getting the sample to the lab on time.
Samples from babies and young children may be taken from diapers (if the stool does not have urine mixed with it). Or a narrow tube may be put into the baby's rectum while you hold the baby on your lap.
Most people do not feel pain when they collect a stool sample.
There is no chance for problems while collecting a stool sample.
Be sure to wear gloves when you collect the sample. Wash your hands with soap and clean, running water before and after you collect the sample. This will help protect you from spreading an infection. Do not use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead of washing your hands. Sanitizer will not kill C. difficile.
There are several types of tests for this toxin. Depending on the test used, results may take several hours or a day or two.
The stool sample does not contain C. difficile toxin.
The stool sample contains C. difficile toxin.
The results of the test may not be helpful if:
C. difficile colitis can cause serious problems. If you test positive, you will need treatment.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofOctober 9, 2017
Current as of:
October 9, 2017
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
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