Defining the phylogenetics and resistome of the major Clostridioides difficile ribotypes circulating in Australia

Microb Genom. 2024 May;10(5):001232. doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.001232.


Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) remains a significant public health threat globally. New interventions to treat CDI rely on an understanding of the evolution and epidemiology of circulating strains. Here we provide longitudinal genomic data on strain diversity, transmission dynamics and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) of C. difficile ribotypes (RTs) 014/020 (n=169), 002 (n=77) and 056 (n=36), the three most prominent C. difficile strains causing CDI in Australia. Genome scrutiny showed that AMR was uncommon in these lineages, with resistance-conferring alleles present in only 15/169 RT014/020 strains (8.9 %), 1/36 RT056 strains (2.78 %) and none of 77 RT002 strains. Notably, ~90 % of strains were resistant to MLSB agents in vitro, but only ~5.9 % harboured known resistance alleles, highlighting an incongruence between AMR genotype and phenotype. Core genome analyses revealed all three RTs contained genetically heterogeneous strain populations with limited evidence of clonal transmission between CDI cases. The average number of pairwise core genome SNP (cgSNP) differences within each RT group ranged from 23.3 (RT056, ST34, n=36) to 115.6 (RT002, ST8, n=77) and 315.9 (RT014/020, STs 2, 13, 14, 49, n=169). Just 19 clonal groups (encompassing 40 isolates), defined as isolates differing by ≤2 cgSNPs, were identified across all three RTs (RT014/020, n=14; RT002, n=3; RT056, n=2). Of these clonal groups, 63 % (12/19) comprised isolates from the same Australian State and 37 % (7/19) comprised isolates from different States. The low number of plausible transmission events found for these major RTs (and previously documented populations in animal and environmental sources/reservoirs) points to widespread and persistent community sources of diverse C. difficile strains as opposed to ongoing nationwide healthcare outbreaks dominated by a single clone. Together, these data provide new insights into the evolution of major lineages causing CDI in Australia and highlight the urgent need for enhanced surveillance, and for public health interventions to move beyond the healthcare setting and into a One Health paradigm to effectively combat this complex pathogen.

Keywords: AMR; Clostridioides difficile; WGS; epidemiology; microbial genomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Clostridioides difficile* / classification
  • Clostridioides difficile* / drug effects
  • Clostridioides difficile* / genetics
  • Clostridioides difficile* / isolation & purification
  • Clostridium Infections* / epidemiology
  • Clostridium Infections* / microbiology
  • Clostridium Infections* / transmission
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Ribotyping*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents