Clostridium Difficile Toxin (Stool)
Does this test have other names?
C. diff, C. difficile
What is this test?
This is a test to look at your stool for toxins produced by Clostridium difficile
Your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to many healthy bacteria, and sometimes C.
difficile is one of them. But in some cases, taking broad-spectrum antibiotics can
upset the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut and cause new or antibiotic-resistant
strains of C. difficile to grow out of control. These germs can then release toxins
into your GI tract, inflaming the colon and causing continuing diarrhea. The resulting
illness can be serious, even life-threatening, if you have a weak immune system.
Even if they are not taking antibiotics, people with a weak immune system often have
an overabundance of C. difficile bacteria.
Why do I need this test?
Your doctor might order this test if you have any of these symptoms, especially if
you are in the hospital or were recently taking antibiotics:
Diarrhea. This means 3 or more loose stools per day for at least 2 days.
Blood or mucus in your stool
Stomach pain, nausea, loss of appetite, or fever, particularly if you have persistent
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Your healthcare provider might order other stool tests to look for C. difficile infection,
such as a glutamate dehydrogenase, or GDH, test and a stool culture test.
If your stool tests are negative, but your doctor still strongly suspects C. difficile
infection, you may have a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to help make a diagnosis. In
this procedure, a doctor examines your colon with a very thin, flexible lighted tube
that is equipped with a tiny video camera on the end.
This infection is a major cause of illness and death among older adults who are in
the hospital, so healthcare providers are likely to test people in this group who
develop persistent diarrhea after taking antibiotics.
What do my test results mean?
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses
to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you
may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare
A normal result for this stool test is negative, which means you had no C. difficile
toxins in your sample. But this test result is not accurate all of the time. A small
portion of people might have the infection even if the result is negative. If your
healthcare provider still suspects infection, he or she may do other tests.
If your stool tests positive for C. difficile toxins, your doctor may decide that
you have antibiotic-associated colitis, or inflammation of the colon.
How is this test done?
This test requires a stool sample. Your healthcare provider will instruct you how
to collect a sample into a disposable specimen container with a lid. Do not collect
fecal material from the toilet bowl or put toilet paper into the specimen container.
Does this test pose any risks?
This test poses no known risks.
What might affect my test results?
Contaminating the stool sample with toilet water, urine, or other substances can make
it unfit for testing or skew the results.
How do I get ready for this test?
You don't need to prepare for this test.