NEWS | April 14, 2016

UC Davis study identifying Clostridium difficile overdiagnosis recognized among best in the nation


Christopher R. Polage, associate professor of pathology and infectious diseases at UC Davis Medical Center, received a Distinguished Clinical Research Award this week from the Clinical Research Forum for his innovative study that found popular molecular tests overdiagnose Clostridium difficile infections by up to 50 percent.

Christopher Polage Christopher Polage

The forum convenes annually to discuss and advance best practices and promote understanding and support for clinical research. Polage's award, designated among the top three in the nation, was selected for its potential to change lives and patient outcomes worldwide.

"I feel extremely honored to have received this award and privileged to be recognized among such an outstanding and esteemed group of researchers," Polage said. "It's really a testament to the training and environment at UC Davis and the years of planning and hard work in this area by our whole team." 

Polage published the results of his award-winning study in the Sept. 8 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine. The researchers evaluated 1,416 hospitalized patients tested for C. difficile at UC Davis, tracking patient outcomes and infection severity according to the results of toxin tests versus molecular tests such as those using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods.

The study concluded that newer molecular tests, which have been adopted by nearly half of U.S. hospitals during the last six years, cannot distinguish infected patients who need treatment from patients who are colonized with the bacteria and do fine without treatment. As a result, many patients are likely being overdiagnosed and overtreated, adding to concerns about antibiotic resistance, damage to “good” bacteria in the gut and increased health-care costs.

Video: Christopher Rolage speaks about Clostridium difficile infections.

The study also demonstrates the important role of the pathologist in critically examining test methods to minimize overdiagnosis of hospital-acquired Clostridium difficile infections, said Lydia Howell, chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at UC Davis Health System.

"This helps to ensure more effective treatments for patients and contributes to a safer inpatient environment for everyone," Howell said. "We are extremely proud that Dr. Polage has received this prestigious national honor."

The Clinical Research Forum is a leading organization committed to promoting understanding and support for clinical research and its impact on health and health care. For the past five years, the forum has recognized the year's 10 most outstanding research studies, calling out the top three for additional recognition.