Genetically related Clostridium difficile from water sources and human CDI cases revealed by whole-genome sequencing

Su Chen Lim, Natasza M.R. Hain-Saunders, Korakrit Imwattana, Papanin Putsathit, Deirdre A. Collins, Thomas V. Riley

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Clostridium difficile isolates from the environment are closely related to those from humans, indicating a possible environmental transmission route for C. difficile infection (CDI). In this study, C. difficile was isolated from 47.3% (53/112) of lake/pond, 23.0% (14/61) of river, 20.0% (3/15) of estuary and 0.0% (0/89) of seawater samples. The most common toxigenic strain isolated was C. difficile PCR ribotype (RT) 014/020 (10.5%, 8/76). All water isolates were susceptible to fidaxomicin, metronidazole, rifaximin, amoxicillin/clavulanic acid, moxifloxacin and tetracycline. Resistance to vancomycin, clindamycin, erythromycin and meropenem was detected in 5.3% (4/76), 26.3% (20/76), 1.3% (1/76) and 6.6% (5/76) of isolates, respectively. High-resolution core-genome analysis was performed on RT 014/020 isolates of water origin and 26 clinical RT 014/020 isolates from the same year and geographical location. Notably, both human and water strains were intermixed across three sequence types (STs), 2, 13 and 49. Six closely related groups with ≤10 core-genome single nucleotide polymorphisms were identified, five of which comprised human and water strains. Overall, 19.2% (5/26) of human strains shared a recent genomic relationship with one or more water strains. This study supports the growing hypothesis that environmental contamination by C. difficile plays a role in CDI transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1221-1230
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number3
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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