The emergence of Clostridioides difficile as the main agent of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea has raised concerns about its potential zoonotic role in different animal species. The use of antimicrobials is a major risk factor for C. difficile infection. Here, we provide data on C. difficile infection in dairy and beef calves in Umbria, a region in central Italy. This cross-sectional study focuses on prevalence, risk factors, ribotypes, toxinotypes and antimicrobial resistance profiles of circulating ribotypes. A prevalence of 19.8% (CI95%, 12-27.6%) positive farms was estimated, and the prescription of penicillins on the farms was associated with C. difficile detection (OR = 5.58). Eleven different ribotypes were found, including the ST11 sublineages RT-126 and -078, which are also commonly reported in humans. Thirteen isolates out of 17 showed resistance to at least one of clindamycin, moxifloxacin, linezolid and vancomycin. Among them, multiple-drug resistance was observed in two isolates, belonging to RT-126. Furthermore, RT-126 isolates were positive for tetracycline resistance determinants, confirming that tetracycline resistance is widespread among ST11 isolates from cattle. The administration of penicillins increased the risk of C. difficile in calves: this, together with the recovery of multi-resistant strains, strongly suggests the need for minimising antibiotic misuse on cattle farms.
Keywords: Clostridium difficile; antibiotics; calves; resistance; ribotypes.