Antibiotics Can Increase C. difficile Risk

Kerry Beeson BSc (Nut. Med.) Nutritional Therapist

Since their discovery in 1928, antibiotics have saved thousands of people from succumbing to life-threatening infections, but emerging research is now beginning to document their role as risk factor in infection and re-infection.

The results of a recent study1 suggest that antibiotic use increased the risk of patients contracting a Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), if the previous occupant of their hospital bed had been given antibiotics.

A recent study suggests that antibiotics may increase the risk of C. diff infections in hospital

The small, but statistically significant, risk was identified during a huge retrospective study of over 100,000 pairs of patients who had successively occupied the same hospital bed. The retrospective research project, the results of which have been published in published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, examined a total of 100,615 pairs of patients who had been hospitalised between 2010 and 2015, in four different hospitals in the New York area2. The test subjects had to fulfil a number of different criteria; for example, they were not selected if they’d had a recent CDI infection, or if they developed one within 48 hours of being admitted to hospital. Pairs of patients were also excluded from the study if the first occupant had occupied the bed for less than 24 hours.

Antibiotic use increased the risk of C. Diff infection

Out of a total of 100,615 pairs of patients, it was noted that in 576 pairs (0.57%) that where the first patient in the bed had been given non-C. diff antibiotics, the subsequent patients then went on to develop CDI within 2-14 days.

hospital patient
The elderly may be more at risk of catching a C. Diff infectio

Though it was noted that most of the patients who contracted CDI did fall into higher risk categories - for example, they tended to be elderly with a previous history of CDI - no other risk factors, other than antibiotic use in the first patient, were identified in this study. The research team, led by Dr. Daniel Freedberg, a gastroenterologist from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, concluded that:

“Receipt of antibiotics by prior bed occupants was associated with increased risk for CDI in subsequent patients. Antibiotics can directly affect risk for CDI in patients who do not themselves receive antibiotics”

For more about the potential risks of antibiotic use in hospitalised patients, read Jacob’s blog: Optibac Probiotics mentioned in new book: Antibiotics: Are they curing us or killing us?

For more on subject of antibiotics, read our other related blogs, info pages and FAQs here:

Probiotic Myths - BUSTED! - The Antibiotic Myth
Probiotics vs Antibiotics? You're asking the wrong question
New clinical trial on Lacidofil formula 'For those on antibiotics'


  1. Freedberg DE, Salmasian H, Cohen B, Abrams JA, Larson EL. Receipt of Antibiotics in Hospitalized Patients and Risk for Clostridium difficile Infection in Subsequent Patients Who Occupy the Same Bed. JAMA Intern Med. Published online October 10, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.6193
  2. ‘C. difficile Risk Among Hospital Bed Occupants’, Infectious Disease Advisor, October 12, 2016, Available online at: [ Accessed 18/10/16]