Clostridium difficile Infection - Management of Infection Guidance for Primary Care

Publication: 30/09/2010  
Last review: 01/01/1900  
Next review: 01/04/2018  
Clinical Guideline
ID: 2251 
Approved By:  
Copyright© Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 2010  


This Clinical Guideline is intended for use by healthcare professionals within Leeds unless otherwise stated.
For healthcare professionals in other trusts, please ensure that you consult relevant local and national guidance.

Clostridium difficile infection



Preferred option

Clostridium difficile infection


Stop unnecessary antibiotics and/or PPI's 1C70% respond to Metronidazole electronic Medicines Compendium information on Metronidazole in 5 days; 92% in 14days2
Complete full course regardless of symptom resolution
Severe if:

  • T >38.5
  • WCC >15
  • rising creatinine
  • signs/symptoms of severe colitis 1C

For Severe infection consider admission

Non-severe infection:
Metronidazole electronic Medicines Compendium information on Metronidazole
400mg TDS oral/nasogastric

Severe infection:
Vancomycin electronic Medicines Compendium information on Vancomycin
125mg QDS oral/nasogastric
10 days

See LHP Guideline for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Clostridium difficile infection

Principles of Treatment

  1. This guidance is based on the best available evidence but its application must be modified by professional judgement.
  2. A dose and duration of treatment is suggested. In severe or recurrent cases consider a larger dose or longer course
  3. Choices are given as Preferred option or Alternative for patients intolerant of the preferred option and 2nd Line for when an alternative is required because of treatment failure
  4. Only send microbiology specimens if there is a clinical suspicion of infection. Inappropriate specimens (e.g. routine ulcer swab or routine catheter specimen of urine) lead to inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.
  5. Prescribe an antibiotic only when there is likely to be a clear clinical benefit.
  6. Consider a no, or delayed, antibiotic strategy for acute self-limiting upper respiratory tract infections 1,A+
  7. Limit prescribing over the telephone to exceptional cases.
  8. Use simple generic antibiotics if possible. Avoid broad spectrum antibiotics (e.g. co-amoxiclav, quinolones and cephalosporins) when narrow spectrum antibiotics remain effective, as they increase risk of Clostridium difficile, MRSA and resistant UTI's.
  9. Avoid widespread use of topical antibiotics (especially those agents also available as systemic preparations).
  10. In pregnancy AVOID tetracyclines, aminoglycosides, quinolones, and high dose metronidazole. Short-term use of trimethoprim (unless low folate status or taking another folate antagonist such as antiepileptic or proguanil) or nitrofurantoin (at term, theoretical risk of neonatal haemolysis) is unlikely to cause problems to the foetus.
  11. We recommend clarithromycin as it has less side-effects than erythromycin, greater compliance as twice rather than four times daily & generic tablets are similar cost. In children erythromycin may be preferable as clarithromycin syrup is twice the cost.
  12. Where a ‘best guess’ therapy has failed or special circumstances exist, microbiological advice can be obtained from LTHT Microbiology (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm and Sat and Sun 9am-1pm: 0113 39 23962/28580; Otherwise via LTHT switchboard - ask for the On call Microbiology Registrar)


Note: Doses are oral and for adults unless otherwise stated. Please refer to BNF for further information.
Letters indicate strength of evidence:
A+ = systematic review: D = informal opinion


Record: 2251
  • to provide a simple, empirical approach to the treatment of common infections
  • to promote the safe, effective and economic use of antibiotics
  • to minimise the emergence of bacterial resistance and reduce the incidence of Healthcare Associated Infections in the community
Clinical condition:

Clostridium difficile Infection

Target patient group:
Target professional group(s): Primary Care Doctors
Adapted from:

This guidance was initially developed in 1999 by practitioners in South Devon, as part of the S&W Devon Joint Formulary Initiative, and Cheltenham & Tewkesbury Prescribing Group and modified by the PHLS South West Antibiotic Guidelines Project Team, PHLS Primary Care Co-ordinators and members of the Clinical Prescribing Sub-group of the Standing Medical Advisory Committee on Antibiotic Resistance. It was further modified following comments from Internet users. The guidance has been updated annually as significant research papers, systematic reviews and guidance have been published. The Health Protection Agency works closely with the authors of the Clinical Knowledge Summaries.

Evidence base

Grading of guidance recommendations

The strength of each recommendation is qualified by a letter in parenthesis.

Study design


Good recent systematic review of studies


One or more rigorous studies, not combined


One or more prospective studies


One or more retrospective studies


Formal combination of expert opinion


Informal opinion, other information


Clinical Knowledge Summaries web BNF (No 55), SMAC report - The path of least resistance (1998), SDHCT Medical Directorate guidelines + GU medicine guidelines, Plymouth Management of Infection Guidelines project LRTI and URTI.

Clostridium difficile

  1. DH and HPA. Clostridium difficile infection: how to deal with the problem. 2009. Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency. (Accessed 14th December 2009). Metronidazole is recommended for first- or second-episodes of C. difficile infection because it is cheaper than oral vancomycin and there are concerns that overuse of vancomycin will result in the selection of vancomycin-resistant enterococci. Oral vancomycin is preferred for severe C. difficile infection because of relatively high failure rates of metronidazole in recent reports, and a slower clinical response to metronidazole compared with oral vancomycin treatment.
  2. Belmares J, Gerding DN, Parada JP, Miskevics S, Weaver F, Johnson S. Outcome of metronidazole therapy for Clostridium difficile disease and correlation with a scoring system. J Infect 2007;55:495-501. This retrospective review of 102 patients given a 5-day course of metronidazole for clostridium difficile infection found that 70.3% responded by the end of the 5-day course. Twenty-one of the remaining 30 patients eventually responded to metronidazole, but needed longer treatment courses.

Document history

LHP version 1.0

Related information

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