Rectal swabs from 122 patients and 497 environmental swabs from several wards were examined for the presence of Clostridium difficile in order to assess the role of the environment in the spread of this organism. Clostridium difficile was isolated from 6/27 (22.2%) oncology patients and from 8/163 (4.9%) environmental specimens obtained from the oncology unit. Items found positive for C difficile were those subjected to faecal contamination such as commode chairs, bed pans, dust pans, discard bins, the sluice and a disposable bed pan machine. Fourteen of 51 (27.4%) asymptomatic neonates yielded mostly toxigenic C difficile in their stools during their first week of life. Five of 156 (3.2%) specimens taken from inanimate objects in the environment of the neonatal units were positive for C difficile. The organism was also isolated from the hands of a nurse. Similar antibiogram patterns were demonstrated in the strains obtained from the patients and their environment indicating the possible occurrence of cross infection. These results indicate that environmental contamination is important in the spread of C difficile in hospitalised patients and the implementation of isolation procedures may limit that spread.
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