Clostridium difficile carriage in adult cystic fibrosis (CF); implications for patients with CF and the potential for transmission of nosocomial infection

J Cyst Fibros. 2017 Mar;16(2):291-298. doi: 10.1016/j.jcf.2016.09.008. Epub 2016 Nov 29.


Clostridium difficile is an anaerobic Gram-positive, spore-forming, toxin-producing bacillus transmitted among humans through the faecal-oral route. Despite increasing carriage rates and the presence of C. difficile toxin in stool, patients with CF rarely appear to develop typical manifestations of C. difficile infection (CDI). In this study, we examined the carriage, toxin production, ribotype distribution and antibiotic susceptibility of C. difficile in a cohort of 60 adult patients with CF who were pre-lung transplant. C. difficile was detected in 50% (30/60) of patients with CF by culturing for the bacteria. C. difficile toxin was detected in 63% (19/30) of C. difficile-positive stool samples. All toxin-positive stool samples contained toxigenic C. difficile strains harbouring toxin genes, tcdA and tcdB. Despite the presence of C. difficile and its toxin in patient stool, no acute gastrointestinal symptoms were reported. Ribotyping of C. difficile strains revealed 16 distinct ribotypes (RT), 11 of which are known to be disease-causing including the hyper-virulent RT078. Additionally, strains RT002, RT014, and RT015, which are common in non-CF nosocomial infection were described. All strains were susceptible to vancomycin, metronidazole, fusidic acid and rifampicin. No correlation was observed between carriage of C. difficile or any characteristics of isolated strains and any recorded clinical parameters or treatment received. We demonstrate a high prevalence of hypervirulent, toxigenic strains of C. difficile in asymptomatic patients with CF. This highlights the potential role of asymptomatic patients with CF in nosocomial transmission of C. difficile.

Keywords: Clostridium difficile; Cystic fibrosis; Nosocomial infection; Transmission.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques / methods
  • Carrier State* / diagnosis
  • Carrier State* / epidemiology
  • Clostridioides difficile / isolation & purification*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross Infection* / diagnosis
  • Cross Infection* / microbiology
  • Cystic Fibrosis* / epidemiology
  • Cystic Fibrosis* / microbiology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous* / diagnosis
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / methods
  • Prevalence