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Clin Microbiol Rev. 1988 January; 1(1): 1–18.
PMCID: PMC358025

Clostridium difficile: its disease and toxins.

Abstract

Clostridium difficile is the etiologic agent of pseudomembranous colitis, a severe, sometimes fatal disease that occurs in adults undergoing antimicrobial therapy. The disease, ironically, has been most effectively treated with antibiotics, although some of the newer methods of treatment such as the replacement of the bowel flora may prove more beneficial for patients who continue to relapse with pseudomembranous colitis. The organism produces two potent exotoxins designated toxin A and toxin B. Toxin A is an enterotoxin believed to be responsible for the diarrhea and mucosal tissue damage which occur during the disease. Toxin B is an extremely potent cytotoxin, but its role in the disease has not been as well studied. There appears to be a cascade of events which result in the expression of the activity of these toxins, and these events, ranging from the recognition of a trisaccharide receptor by toxin A to the synergistic action of the toxins and their possible dissemination in the body, are discussed in this review. The advantages and disadvantages of the various assays, including tissue culture assay, enzyme immunoassay, and latex agglutination, currently used in the clinical diagnosis of the disease also are discussed.

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Articles from Clinical Microbiology Reviews are provided here courtesy of American Society for Microbiology (ASM)