Modelling diverse sources of Clostridium difficile in the community: importance of animals, infants and asymptomatic carriers

McLure A, Clements ACA, Kirk MD, Glass K

Epidemiol Infect (2019) e152, 1–9; 10.1017/S0950268819000384

Clostridium difficile infections (CDIs) affect patients in hospitals and in the community, but the relative importance of transmission in each setting is unknown. We developed a mathematical model of C. difficile transmission in a hospital and surrounding community that included infants, adults and transmission from animal reservoirs. We assessed the role of these transmission routes in maintaining disease and evaluated the recommended classification system for hospital- and community-acquired CDIs. The reproduction number in the hospital was 1 for nearly all scenarios without transmission from animal reservoirs (range: 1.0-1.34). However, the reproduction number for the human population was 3.5-26.0%) of human exposures originated from animal reservoirs. Symptomatic adults accounted for <10% transmission in the community. Under conservative assumptions, infants accounted for 17% of community transmission. An estimated 33-40% of community-acquired cases were reported but 28-39% of these reported cases were misclassified as hospital-acquired by recommended definitions. Transmission could be plausibly sustained by asymptomatically colonised adults and infants in the community or exposure to animal reservoirs, but not hospital transmission alone. Under-reporting of community-onset cases and systematic misclassification underplays the role of community transmission.