Two-year analysis of Clostridium difficile ribotypes associated with increased severity

J Hosp Infect. 2019 Dec;103(4):388-394. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2019.06.003. Epub 2019 Jun 18.


Background: Certain Clostridium difficile ribotypes have been associated with complex disease phenotypes including recurrence and increased severity, especially the well-described hypervirulent RT027. This study aimed to determine the pattern of ribotypes causing infection and the association, if any, with severity.

Methods: All faecal samples submitted to a large diagnostic laboratory for C. difficile testing between 2011 and 2013 were subject to routine testing and culture. All C. difficile isolates were ribotyped, and associated clinical and demographic patient data were retrieved and linked to ribotyping data.

Results: In total, 86 distinct ribotypes were identified from 705 isolates of C. difficile. RT002 and RT015 were the most prevalent (22.5%, N=159). Only five isolates (0.7%) were hypervirulent RT027. Ninety of 450 (20%) patients with clinical information available died within 30 days of C. difficile isolation. RT220, one of the 10 most common ribotypes, was associated with elevated median C-reactive protein and significantly increased 30-day all-cause mortality compared with RT002 and RT015, and with all other ribotypes found in the study.

Conclusions: A wide range of C. difficile ribotypes were responsible for C. difficile infection presentations. Although C. difficile-associated mortality has reduced in recent years, expansion of lineages associated with increased severity could herald increases in future mortality. Enhanced surveillance for emerging lineages such as RT220 that are associated with more severe disease is required, with genomic approaches to dissect pathogenicity.

Keywords: C-reactive protein; Clostridium difficile; Ribotype; Severe infection; tcdA; tcdB.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clostridioides difficile / classification*
  • Clostridioides difficile / genetics*
  • Clostridioides difficile / isolation & purification
  • Clostridioides difficile / pathogenicity
  • Clostridium Infections / microbiology*
  • Clostridium Infections / pathology*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ribotyping*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Young Adult