Open Access Research article

International Clostridium difficile animal strain collection and large diversity of animal associated strains

Sandra Janezic1, Valerija Zidaric1, Bart Pardon2, Alexander Indra3, Branko Kokotovic4, Jose Luis Blanco5, Christian Seyboldt6, Cristina Rodriguez Diaz7, Ian R Poxton8, Vincent Perreten9, Ilenia Drigo10, Alena Jiraskova11, Matjaz Ocepek12, J Scott Weese13, J Glenn Songer14, Mark H Wilcox15 and Maja Rupnik11617*

Author Affiliations

1 National Laboratory for Health, Environment and Food, Maribor, Slovenia

2 Department of Large Animal Internal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium

3 Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), Vienna, Austria

4 Technical University of Denmark, National Veterinary Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark

5 Complutense University, Madrid, Spain

6 Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Bacterial Infections and Zoonoses, Jena, Germany

7 University of Liege, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Liege, Belgium

8 University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

9 University of Bern, Institute of Veterinary Bacteriology, Bern, Switzerland

10 IZSVe, Treviso, Italy

11 Charles University in Prague, 1st Faculty of Medicine, Prague, Czech Republic

12 University of Ljubljana, Veterinary Faculty, Ljubljana, Slovenia

13 University of Guelph, Ontario Veterinary College, Ontario, Canada

14 Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA

15 Department of Medical Microbiology, Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Leeds, UK

16 University of Maribor, Medical Faculty, Maribor, Slovenia

17 Centre of Excellence for Integrated Approaches in Chemistry and Biology of Proteins, Ljubljana, Slovenia

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BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:173  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-173

Published: 28 June 2014



Clostridium difficile is an important cause of intestinal infections in some animal species and animals might be a reservoir for community associated human infections. Here we describe a collection of animal associated C. difficile strains from 12 countries based on inclusion criteria of one strain (PCR ribotype) per animal species per laboratory.


Altogether 112 isolates were collected and distributed into 38 PCR ribotypes with agarose based approach and 50 PCR ribotypes with sequencer based approach. Four PCR ribotypes were most prevalent in terms of number of isolates as well as in terms of number of different host species: 078 (14.3% of isolates; 4 hosts), 014/020 (11.6%; 8 hosts); 002 (5.4%; 4 hosts) and 012 (5.4%; 5 hosts). Two animal hosts were best represented; cattle with 31 isolates (20 PCR ribotypes; 7 countries) and pigs with 31 isolates (16 PCR ribotypes; 10 countries).


This results show that although PCR ribotype 078 is often reported as the major animal C. difficile type, especially in pigs, the variability of strains in pigs and other animal hosts is substantial. Most common human PCR ribotypes (014/020 and 002) are also among most prevalent animal associated C. difficile strains worldwide. The widespread dissemination of toxigenic C. difficile and the considerable overlap in strain distribution between species furthers concerns about interspecies, including zoonotic, transmission of this critically important pathogen.

Clostridium difficile; Animals; Ribotyping; Geographic distribution; Strain collection