Clostridium difficile Infection - Management of Infection Guidance for Primary Care

Publication: 30/09/2010  
Next review: 31/10/2024  
Clinical Guideline
ID: 2251 
Approved By:  
Copyright© Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 2019  


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.

Management of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in adults in Primary Care

Management of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in adults in Primary Care

All adult patients (>16 years of age, and including immunosuppressed) with diarrhoea (type 5-7 stool, Bristol stool chart) and a positive Clostridium difficile result (a positive result requires both positive glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) and toxin assays) OR C. difficile infection (CDI) suspected clinically but not yet confirmed.

Review, and where possible stop, all antimicrobials3B- and any medicines that can produce diarrhoea.
Review, and where possible stop, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)1D,2D. If unable to stop, ensure the patient is receiving the appropriate dose.
Ensure the patient is able to maintain adequate fluid intake and make the patient aware of the risks of dehydration.
Consider the need for nutritional supplements for frail patients.
Reiterate the need for good hand and toilet hygiene with the use of soap and water to the patient, relatives, and carers.
Take measures to prevent the spread of CDI especially if the patient shares accommodation with others (see LCH policy for guidance).
Complete the full course of treatment for CDI regardless of symptom resolution (10 days minimum).


 Preferred Option


1st episode:




Vancomycin125mg PO QDS for 10 days
Stop at 10 days if diarrhoea has resolved.
Continue for 14 days if improving but still symptomatic at 10 days.

Discuss with microbiology if deteriorating on treatment or no improvement after 7 days

Consider Fidaxomicin for initial treatment if high risk of recurrent CDI (see below)

Non-severe CDI: diarrhoea without features of severe or life-threatening infection (see below).
Stool frequency is not a reliable marker of severity.
Absence of diarrhoea may occur in toxic megacolon or paralytic ileus
Treatment is not indicated in patients who have a positive diagnostic laboratory assay but do not have diarrhea or other CDI disease manifestations.


Consider referral to secondary care (depending on clinical assessment).

ORAL/NG: Vancomycin  125mg QDS for 10 days 1D,2D,5A
Continue for 14 days if improving but still symptomatic at 10 days.
Discuss with microbiology if deteriorating on treatment or no improvement after 7 days


If high-risk for recurrent CDI (such as requiring antibiotic treatment for another infection or multiple comorbidities):
ORAL Fidaxomicin 200mg 12-hourly for 10 days2D,5A (not licensed in pregnancy).
(Red drug for first line treatment of severe CDI – hospital prescribing only)

Features consistent with severe CDI (any of below):

  • Fever/temperature >38.5
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Abdominal tenderness/guarding
  • Acute Kidney injury
  • Raised WBC (>15 x 109/L)

Fidaxomicin treatment of initial episode of CDI is associated with a lower recurrence rate than treatment with oral vancomycin.

Life Threatening

Urgent referral to secondary care

Life Threatening CDI:

  • Hypotension/shock
  • Partial or complete ileus or toxic megacolon

Recurrent CDI:
(See also LTH Guideline)

Discuss with Microbiology. Options include:
Fidaxomicin 200mg PO 12-hourly 2D,5A (not recommended for recurrent CDI if received in preceding 28 days)
(Amber level 1 drug for recurrent CDI - To be prescribed in primary care only on recommendation of microbiology)


Vancomycin (standard or pulsed/tapered regimen) 2D


Faecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) (requires referral to Infectious Diseases team). Usually only recommended for patients with 2+ recurrences.

Recurrent CDI is usually defined as recurrence of diarrhoea (at least 3 consecutive type 5-7 stools) and a positive C. difficile toxin assay within 2-8 weeks of a previous CDI episode and after resolution of previous symptoms (i.e. no diarrhoea for at least 48 hours).
Treatment options for recurrent disease vary depending on prior treatment received for initial episode.
Risk factors for recurrent CDI:

  • Concomitant antibiotic treatment
  • Immunosuppression/Cancer/HIV
  • Multiple co-morbidities (Including chronic renal insufficiency, chronic hepatic impairment, diabetes etc.)
  • IBD
  • Age >65 years

LTH Guideline
LCH policy

General Principles for Treating Infections
This summary table is based on the best available evidence, but use professional judgement and involve patients in management decisions.

  1. This summary table should not be used in isolation; it should be supported with patient information about safety netting, back-up antibiotics, self-care, infection severity and usual duration, clinical staff education, and audits. Materials are available on the RCGP TARGET website.
  2. Prescribe an antibiotic only when there is likely to be clear clinical benefit, giving alternative, non-antibiotic self-care advice, where appropriate.
  3. If person is systemically unwell with symptoms or signs of serious illness, or is at high risk of complications: give immediate antibiotic. Always consider possibility of sepsis, and refer to hospital if severe systemic infection
  4. Use a lower threshold for antibiotics in immunocompromised, or in those with multiple morbidities; consider culture/specimens, and seek advice.
  5. In severe infection, or immunocompromised, it is important to initiate antibiotics as soon as possible, particularly if sepsis is suspected. If patient is not at moderate to high risk for sepsis, give information about symptom monitoring, and how to access medical care if they are concerned.
  6. Where an empirical 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: 07825 906030, 0113 39 23962/28580; Otherwise via LTHT switchboard - ask for the On call Microbiology Registrar)
  7. Limit prescribing over the telephone to exceptional cases.
  8. Use simple, generic antibiotics if possible. Avoid broad spectrum antibiotics (for example coamoxiclav, quinolones and cephalosporins) when narrow spectrum antibiotics remain effective, as they increase the risk of Clostridium difficile, MRSA and resistant UTIs.
  9. Avoid widespread use of topical antibiotics, especially in those agents also available systemically (for example fusidic acid); in most cases, topical use should be limited.
  10. Always check for antibiotic allergies. A dose and duration of treatment for adults is usually suggested, but may need modification for age, weight, renal function, or if immunocompromised. In severe or recurrent cases, consider a larger dose or longer course.
  11. Avoid use of quinolones unless benefits outweigh the risk as new 2018 evidence indicates that they may be rarely associated with long lasting disabling neuro-muscular and skeletal side effects.
  12. Refer to the BNF for further dosing and interaction information (for example the interaction between macrolides and statins), and check for hypersensitivity.
    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 = expert opinion


Record: 2251
Clinical condition:

Clostridium difficile Infection

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

Management of Infection guidance for primary care for consultation and local adaptation

Evidence base

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

Study design


Good recent systematic review and meta-analysis of studies


One or more rigorous studies; randomised controlled trials


One or more prospective studies


One or more retrospective studies


Non-analytic studies, eg case reports or case series


Formal combination of expert opinion


  1. Debast SB, Bauer MP, Kuijper EJ, European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases: update of the treatment guidance document for Clostridium difficile infection. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2014 May; 20(2):1-26. Available from: .
  2. Public Health England (PHE). Updated guidance on the management and treatment of Clostridium difficile infection. 2013 May. Available from:
  3. Howell MD, Novack V, Grgurich P, Soulliard D, Novack L, Pencina M et al. Iatrogenic gastric acid suppression and risk of nosocomial Clostridium difficile infection. Arch Intern Med. 2010 May;170(9):784-789. Available from: .
  4. 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 Dec; 55(6):495-501. Available from: .
  5. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Clostridium difficile infection: fidaxomicin. 2012 Jul. Available from: .

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