Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sniffing out C. diff

Lately I’ve been getting this call from nurses: “Mrs. so-and-so just had a liquid stool that smells like C. diff. Shall I send it down to the lab?” An informal poll revealed that many nurses are convinced they can detect the infection by smell. Is there anything to this?

Apparently, in the micro lab, blood agar colonies of Clostridium difficile have “a barnyard odor that is unmistakable” due to elaboration of P-cresol. But what are the test characteristics of olfaction at the bedside?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The smell is unmistakable.

I had never smelled it before I had it. When I contacted a relative who is an ICU nurse about my copious diarrhea, with cramps and a feeling of death, they mentioned a smell. I knew exactly what that smell was because I had been noticing it for the last day. When I confirmed this, they made me call my specialist immediately. I was taken off antibiotics 45 minutes later, and a stool test confirmed the "smell test".

Apparently hospital people can smell it before they walk into a room.

Unfortunately, until now, it has not been treated with the respect it deserves. My own findings on this nasty ass bug scared the crap out of me- an awful lot of people are killed or permanently ill or get a colostomy after getting this bug. WHile I was not, ONLY because I called the right person and my doctor recognized it immediately, I was not myself for 6 months after and was left with residual anemia and fungal infections because of what it did to my innards.

Two years later I still have ultimate respect for this bug.