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?