As part of a multicenter study, investigators from the University of Oxford, the University of Leeds, Astellas Pharma Europe, and elsewhere used a combination of ribotyping, sequencing, phylogenetics, and geographic analyses to retrace the genetic diversity and potential sources of C. difficile isolates involved in infections in European hospitals.
Recent research suggests a proportion of Clostridium difficile cases in Europe involve not only hospital-acquired infections but also infections associated with other sources, such as food.
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David Eyre, a clinical lecturer at the University of Oxford, was slated to present the work at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases annual 2017 meeting in Vienna this past weekend. The study was funded by Astellas Pharma’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) program.
“We don’t know much about how C. difficile might be spread in the food chain, but this research suggests it may be very widespread,” Eyre said in a statement. “If that turns out to be the case, then we need to focus on some new preventative strategies such as vaccination in humans once this is possible, or we might need to look at our use of animal fertilizers on crops.”
“This study doesn’t give us any definitive answers,” he explained, “but it does suggest other factors [than hospital infections] are at play in the spread of C. difficile and more research is urgently needed to pin them down.”
Some of the strains clustered by locale, consistent with spread from one individual to the next, for example in a healthcare setting. But more unexpectedly, the team also saw strains smattered across seemingly unconnected sites. And because at least one of those strains had previously been linked to pig farming, the researchers speculated that some infections may have been transmitted through food sources.
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