Prevalence and risk factors associated with Clostridium difficile shedding in veal calves in Italy.

PMID 25638401


The aim of this study is to describe the prevalence and risk factors of Clostridium difficile shedding in six farms belonging to two companies in Northern Italy. Four hundred and twenty veal calves, randomly selected and individually identified, were sampled three times: at 0-16, 90-120, and 150 days after introduction. C.xa0difficile was isolated at least once from 87 out of the 420 calves (20.7%). The prevalence of shedding was 20.24% at the first sampling and dropped to 0.72% at the second sampling. None of the samples obtained at 150 days tested positive. Sampling of cecal contents and carcass swabs at slaughter was stratified according to the herd of origin of the animals. C. difficile was never isolated at slaughter, excluding a prevalence higher than 3.5% on the basis of previous investigations. Therefore, in this work, the veal calf could not be confirmed as a potential source of C.xa0difficile for the consumer. Eight different ribotypes (RT) have been described, but the vast majority of the isolates (87.8%) belonged to three ribotypes only: RT-078, RT-012 and RT-126, which are also among the most common of the ribotypes detected in humans in Europe. Most isolates, and all the RT-078 isolates, harbored genes coding for toxins A and B, the binary toxin, and showed a deletion in the gene encoding toxin C, suggesting that the veal calf was a reservoir for epidemic hyper-virulent strains. A correlation between age and shedding was found: the odds ratio (OR) ranged from 2.79 for 36-45 days of age to 4.57 for 13-28 days of age. The presence of diarrhea at first sampling was significantly associated with the recovery of C.xa0difficile in feces (OR 3.26). A correlation was found between the administration of antimicrobials and shedding: an increased risk was shown when the number of antimicrobials used was higher than 4 (OR 4.02) or 5-6 (OR 5.83) or when polymyxin E or beta-lactams were administered.