A molecular characterization of Clostridium difficile isolates from humans, animals and their environments

G. O'Neill, J.E. Adams, R.A. Bowman, Thomas Riley

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47 Citations (Scopus)


It is generally accepted that most patients with Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea acquire the organism from the environment. Recently we demonstrated that household pets may constitute a significant reservoir of C. difficile through gastrointestinal carriage in up to 39% of cats and dogs. These findings suggested that direct transmission from household pets, or contamination of the environment by them, may be a factor in the pathogenesis of C. difficile-associated diarrhoea. To investigate this possibility, we examined isolates of C. difficile from humans, pets and the environment by restriction enzyme analysis (REA) and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) typing using enhanced chemiluminescence. Both REA and RFLP typing methods used Hind III digests of chromosomal DNA. A total of 116 isolates of C. difficile from pets (26), veterinary clinic environmental sites (33), humans (37) and hospital environmental sites (20) was examined. REA was far more discriminatory than RFLP typing and for all isolates there were 34 REA types versus 6 RFLP types. There was good correlation between the REA types found in isolates from pets and from the veterinary clinic environment, and between isolates from humans and from those found in the hospital environment. There was, however, no correlation between REA type of C. difficile found in pets and isolates of human origin. We conclude that there may still be a risk of humans acquiring C. difficile from domestic pets as these findings may be the result of geographical variation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-264
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Publication statusPublished - 1993


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