Diversity and evolution in the genome of Clostridium difficile

Dan Knight, B. Elliott, Barbara Chang, Tim Perkins, Thomas Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

161 Citations (Scopus)


Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is the leading cause of antimicrobial and health care-associated diarrhea in humans, presenting a significant burden to global health care systems. In the last 2 decades, PCR- and sequence-based techniques, particularly whole-genome sequencing (WGS), have significantly furthered our knowledge of the genetic diversity, evolution, epidemiology, and pathogenicity of this once enigmatic pathogen. C. difficile is taxonomically distinct from many other well-known clostridia, with a diverse population structure comprising hundreds of strain types spread across at least 6 phylogenetic clades. The C. difficile species is defined by a large diverse pangenome with extreme levels of evolutionary plasticity that has been shaped over long time periods by gene flux and recombination, often between divergent lineages. These evolutionary events are in response to environmental and anthropogenic activities and have led to the rapid emergence and worldwide dissemination of virulent clonal lineages. Moreover, genome analysis of large clinically relevant data sets has improved our understanding of CDI outbreaks, transmission, and recurrence. The epidemiology of CDI has changed dramatically over the last 15 years, and CDI may have a foodborne or zoonotic etiology. The WGS era promises to continue to redefine our view of this significant pathogen. © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-741
JournalClinical Microbiology Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Diversity and evolution in the genome of Clostridium difficile'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this