Asymptomatic Colonization by Clostridium difficile in Infants: Implications for Disease in Later Life


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Abstract

Approximately 60% to 70% of healthy newborns and infants are colonized by the enteric pathogen Clostridium difficile. For reasons that remain obscure, these colonized infants show no ill effects from the potent exotoxins released by this anaerobe, in contrast to older children and adults who are susceptible to severe diarrhea and colitis. The organism is acquired in infancy, as in adults, from environmental contamination in the nursery or home environment. Between 12 and 24 months C difficile is evicted as a commensal, presumably by the gradual development of the adult colonic microflora. The carrier state is well tolerated by infants, and the immunoglobulin G antitoxin response that develops during the carrier state appears to provide durable protection against subsequent C difficile disease.

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