Applied and environmental microbiology

Nationwide surveillance study of Clostridium difficile in Australian neonatal pigs shows high prevalence and heterogeneity of PCR ribotypes.

PMID 25326297


Clostridium difficile is an important enteric pathogen of humans and the cause of diarrhea and enteritis in neonatal pigs. Outside Australia, prevalence in piglets can be up to 73%, with a single PCR ribotype (RT), 078, predominating. We investigated the prevalence and genotype of C. difficile in Australian pig herds. Rectal swabs (n = 229) were collected from piglets aged <7 days from 21 farms across Australia. Selective culture for C. difficile was performed and isolates characterized by PCR for toxin genes and PCR ribotyping. C. difficile was isolated from 52% of samples by direct culture on chromogenic agar and 67% by enrichment culture (P = 0.001). No association between C. difficile recovery or genotype and diarrheic status of either farm or piglets was found. The majority (87%; 130/154) of isolates were toxigenic. Typing revealed 23 different RTs, several of which are known to cause disease in humans, including RT014, which was isolated most commonly (23%; 36/154). RT078 was not detected. This study shows that colonization of Australian neonatal piglets with C. difficile is widespread in the herds sampled.