Acquisition of Clostridium difficile by piglets

Vet Microbiol. 2011 Apr 21;149(1-2):186-92. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2010.10.013. Epub 2010 Nov 4.


Clostridium difficile is recognized as an important cause of nosocomial diarrhoea in humans especially in association with administration of antibiotics. In pigs, C. difficile can cause neonatal enteritis and can be isolated from faeces from both diseased and healthy animals. The presented prospective study describes how soon C. difficile can be isolated from newborn piglets after normal parturition and how C. difficile spreads within a pig farm. Six sows, their farrowing crates and their litters at one farm were sampled until C. difficile was found in all piglets. Within 48 h after birth, all 71 piglets became positive for C. difficile (two piglets were already positive within 1h post partum), all sows became positive within 113 h after parturition and the farrowing crates were found intermittently positive. C. difficile could also be detected in air samples and in samples of teats of the sows. All isolates belonged to PCR ribotype 078. Twenty-one C. difficile ribotype 078 isolates, found at the farm, were further analyzed by MLVA (multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis) and belonged to one clonal complex, except one isolate. To be sure that piglets were not born already infected with C. difficile ribotype 078, 38 caesarean derived piglets were sampled immediately after surgery. All piglets tested negative at delivery and stayed negative for C. difficile ribotype 078 during the 21 days in which they were kept in sterile incubators. This study shows that C. difficile ribotype 078 spreads easily between sows, piglets and the environment. Vertical transmission of C. difficile ribotype 078 was not found and is very unlikely to occur.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / microbiology
  • Clostridium difficile / classification
  • Clostridium difficile / isolation & purification*
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / microbiology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / transmission
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / veterinary*
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Minisatellite Repeats
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ribotyping
  • Swine / microbiology*
  • Swine Diseases / microbiology*
  • Swine Diseases / transmission