What is Clostridium difficile (C diff)?

Updated: Jul 25, 2019
  • Author: Faten N Aberra, MD, MSCE; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Clostridium difficile is a gram-positive, anaerobic, spore-forming bacillus that is responsible for the development of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and colitis. C difficile infection (CDI) commonly manifests as mild to moderate diarrhea, occasionally with abdominal cramping. Pseudomembranes (adherent, yellowish white plaques on the intestinal mucosa) are occasionally observed (see the images below). In rare cases, patients with C difficile infection can present with an acute abdomen and fulminant, life-threatening colitis. (See Presentation.)

Clostridioides (Clostridium) difficile colitis. En Clostridioides (Clostridium) difficile colitis. Endoscopic visualization of pseudomembranous colitis, a characteristic manifestation of full-blown <i>C difficile</i> colitis. Classic pseudomembranes are visible as raised, yellow plaques ranging from 2 to 10 mm in diameter and scattered over the colorectal mucosa. Courtesy of Gregory Ginsberg, MD, University of Pennsylvania.
Clostridioides (Clostridium) difficile colitis. Ba Clostridioides (Clostridium) difficile colitis. Barium enema demonstrating the typical serrated appearance of the barium column (resulting from trapped barium between the edematous mucosal folds and the plaquelike membranes of pseudomembranous colitis).

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