Epidemiology of Clostridium Difficile Infection in a Large Hospital in Northern Italy: Questioning the Ward-Based Transmission

Gabriella Piatti1, 2, *, Marco Bruzzone3, Vincenzo Fontana3, Alessandro Mannini4, Marcello Ceppi3
1 DISC, Department of Surgical Sciences and Integrated Diagnostics, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy
2 Division of Microbiology, Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genoa, 10 Largo Benzi, 16132, Genoa, Italy
3 Unit of Clinical Epidemiology, Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genoa, 10 Largo Benzi, 16132, Genoa, Italy
4 Department of Science, Environment and Life, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy

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© 2017 Piatti et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Division of Microbiology, Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Largo Rosanna Benzi, 10, 16132 Genoa, Italy; Tel: +39-3204207437; E-mail:



Clostridium Difficile infection (CDI) is considered a ward-based nosocomial infection, due to contagion among patients. Molecular studies recently questioned ward-based contact for disease spread.


To investigate whether it is plausible that CDI spread in San Martino Hospital of Genoa was due to a ward-based contact and patient-to-patient diffusion.


We conducted a retrospective cohort study of CDI cases from April 2010 to March 2015. We referred to Hospital data set and Admission Service. Multilevel modelling approach and ecological analysis were used to assess C. difficile infection risk according to wards and time of occurrence. Six representative CD strains were ribotyped to assess a possible equivalence.


The assessment of 514 CDI cases showed that the risk of disease and rate of incidence in wards were independent, while frequency of cases and number of wards involved exhibited a positive relationship, excluding the typical epidemic pattern of contagious diffusion, i.e., many cases in few wards. The extra-binomial variability due to ward clustering was not significant, indicating homogeneity in the probability of CDI occurrence across all wards. Three hundred sixty-eight patients changed ward, without showing connection between the frequency of cases in new wards and incidence among new subjects. Trigonometric components described a significant contribution of seasonality, with excess of CDI cases during the winter months. Molecular analysis showed different ribotypes of CD strains from the same ward.


From our results it seems unlikely that in our institution CDI occurrence is due to ward-based contact and inter-human contagion of the organism.

Keywords: Clostridium Difficile Infection, Diarrhea, Statistic, Human, Contagion, Hospital, Ecology.