Mortality in patients with Clostridium difficile infection correlates with host pro-inflammatory and humoral immune responses

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Host anti-toxin immune responses play important roles in Clostridium difficile disease and outcome. The relationship between host immune and inflammatory responses during severe C. difficile infection (CDI) and the risk of mortality has yet to be defined. We aimed to investigate the host systemic IgG anti-toxin immune responses, the in vitro cytotoxicity of the infecting C. difficile ribotyped strain, and the host inflammatory markers and their relationship to CDI disease severity and risk of mortality. Inflammatory markers, co-morbidities and CDI outcomes were recorded in a prospective cohort of 150 CDI cases. Serum anti-cytotoxin A (TcdA) and anti-TcdB IgG titres were measured by ELISA and the infecting C. difficile isolate was ribotyped and the in vitro cytotoxin titre assessed. A low median anti-TcdA IgG titre was significantly associated with 30-day all-cause mortality (P<0.05). Ribotype 027 isolates were significantly more toxinogenic than other ribotypes (P<0.00001). High cytotoxin titres correlated with increased inflammatory markers but also higher anti-TcdA and -TcdB (P<0.05) IgG responses resulting in a lower risk of mortality. On multivariate analysis, predictors of mortality were peak white cell count >20×109 l−1 [odds ratio (OR) 11.53; 95 % confidence interval (CI) 2.38–55.92], creatinine concentration >133 μmol l−1 (OR 6.54; 95 % CI 1.47–29.07), Horn's index >3 (OR 4.09; 95 % CI 0.76–22.18) and low anti-TcdA IgG (OR 0.97; 95 % CI 0.95–0.99), but not ribotype, cytotoxin titre or anti-TcdB IgG. Thus, host pro-inflammatory and humoral responses correlate with the cytotoxin titre of the infecting strain and effective anti-toxin immune responses reduce the risk of mortality.

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