Clostridium difficile causes antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and pseudomembranous colitis. The main virulence factors of C. difficile are the toxins A (TcdA) and B (TcdB). A third toxin, called binary toxin (CDT), can be detected in 17% to 23% of strains, but its role in human disease has not been clearly defined. We report six independent cases of patients with diarrhoea suspected of having C. difficile infection due to strains from toxinotype XI/PCR ribotype 033 or 033-like, an unusual toxinotype/PCR ribotype positive for CDT but negative for TcdA and TcdB. Four patients were considered truly infected by clinicians and were specifically treated with oral metronidazole. One of the cases was identified during a prevalence study of A(-)B(-)CDT(+) strains. In this study, we screened a French collection of 220 nontoxigenic strains and found only one (0.5%) toxinotype XI/PCR ribotype 033 or 033-like strain. The description of such strains raises the question of the role of binary toxin as a virulence factor and could have implications for laboratory diagnostics that currently rarely include testing for binary toxin.
Keywords: A−B−CDT+ strains; Clostridium difficileI; PCR ribotype 033; binary toxin; diagnostic; toxinotype XI.