We studied the epidemiology and microbiology of Clostridium difficile and the characteristics of patients with C. difficile infection (CDI) in Crete in three groups of hospitalized patients with diarrhoea: group 1 [positive culture and positive toxin by enzyme immunoassay (EIA)]; group 2 (positive culture, negative toxin); group 3 (negative culture, negative toxin). Patients in group 1 were designated as those with definitive CDI (20 patients for whom data was available) and matched with cases in group 2 (40 patients) and group 3 (40 patients). C. difficile grew from 6% (263/4379) of stool specimens; 14·4% of these had positive EIA, of which 3% were resistant to metronidazole. Three isolates had decreased vancomycin susceptibility. Patients in groups 1 and 2 received more antibiotics (P = 0·03) and had more infectious episodes (P = 0·03) than patients in group 3 prior to diarrhoea. Antibiotic administration for C. difficile did not differ between groups 1 and 2. Mortality was similar in all three groups (10%, 12·5% and 5%, P = 0·49). CDI frequency was low in the University Hospital of Crete and isolates were susceptible to metronidazole and vancomycin.