Tag Archives: c diff research

Research Provides a Promising Starting Point for Scientists Developing Medications That Can Resolve C. diff. Infections

A newly published paper in PNAS details a research breakthrough that provides a promising starting point for scientists to create drugs that can cure C. diff — a virulent infection associated with health care facilities that cause severe diarrhea, nausea, internal bleeding, and potentially death. The bacteria affect roughly half a million Americans and cause nearly 15,000 deaths in the U.S. annually.

Overuse of antibiotics has increased the risk of patients in health care facilities acquiring C. diff and made some strains of the bacteria particularly hard to treat. But newly discovered information about a type of toxin released by the most dangerous strains of C. diff is providing researchers with a map to develop drugs that can block the toxin and prevent the bacteria from entering human cells.

NSF-funded researchers at CUNY, Merck and the University of Maryland used a combination of tools — cryogenic electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and small-angle X-ray scattering — to observe and identify the C. diff toxin’s structure and mode of action.

The scientists believe that it is a binary toxin (it needs two components to function) that might employ a method similar to that used by anthrax to enter cells. Using this information as their starting point, the researchers sought to characterize how the C. diff toxin is different from anthrax.

The researchers observed two similar but distinct forms of the C. diff toxin — one where they saw a pore-forming channel and one where the channel was invisible. That observation gave them clues about how to stop the channel from forming and bacteria from entering the cell.

According to Robin McCarley, a program director in NSF’s Division of Chemistry, “NSF funds this type of research because it allows a fundamental understanding of the behavior, at the molecular level, of a highly complex biological system with broad impacts on society.”





To review the article in its entirety please click on the following link to be redirected.  Thank You.



CspC Plays a Critical Role in Regulating C. diff. Spore Germination in Response to Multiple Environmental Signals.


The gastrointestinal pathogen, Clostridioides difficile, initiates infection when its metabolically dormant spore form germinates in the mammalian gut. While most spore-forming bacteria use transmembrane germinant receptors to sense nutrient germinants, C. difficile is thought to use the soluble pseudoprotease, CspC, to detect bile acid germinants. To gain insight into CspC’s unique mechanism of action, we solved its crystal structure. Guided by this structure, we identified CspC mutations that confer either hypo- or hyper-sensitivity to bile acid germinant. Surprisingly, hyper-sensitive CspC variants exhibited bile acid-independent germination as well as increased sensitivity to amino acid and/or calcium co-germinants. Since mutations in specific residues altered CspC’s responsiveness to these different signals, CspC plays a critical role in regulating C. difficile spore germination in response to multiple environmental signals. Taken together, these studies implicate CspC as being intimately involved in the detection of distinct classes of co-germinants in addition to bile acids and thus raises the possibility that CspC functions as a signaling node rather than a ligand-binding receptor

Author summary

The major nosocomial pathogen Clostridioides difficile depends on spore germination to initiate infection. Interestingly, C. difficile’s germinant sensing mechanism differs markedly from other spore-forming bacteria, since it uses bile acids to induce germination and lacks the transmembrane germinant receptors conserved in almost all spore-forming organisms. Instead, C. difficile is thought to use CspC, a soluble pseudoprotease, to sense these unique bile acid germinants. To gain insight into how a pseudoprotease senses germinant and propagates this signal, we solved the crystal structure of C. difficile CspC. Guided by this structure, we identified mutations that alter the sensitivity of C. difficile spores to not only bile acid germinant but also to amino acid and calcium co-germinants. Taken together, our study implicates CspC in either directly or indirectly sensing these diverse small molecules and thus raises new questions regarding how C. difficile spores physically detect bile acid germinants and co-germinants.


  • Amy E. Rohlfing ,
  • Brian E. Eckenroth ,
  • Emily R. Forster,
  • Yuzo Kevorkian,
  • M. Lauren Donnelly,
  • Hector Benito de la Puebla,
  • Sylvie Doublié,
  • Aimee Shen

To view the Abstract in its entirety – please click on the link provided below:


  • Published: July 5, 2019

Researchers Find Sulfated glycosaminoglycans and Low-Density Lipoprotein Receptor Contribute To Clostridioides difficile Toxin A Cell Entry



Clostridium difficile toxin A (TcdA) is a major exotoxin contributing to disruption of the colonic epithelium during C. difficile infection. TcdA contains a carbohydrate-binding combined repetitive oligopeptides (CROPs) domain that mediates its attachment to cell surfaces, but recent data suggest the existence of CROPs-independent receptors. Here, we carried out genome-wide clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9)-mediated screens using a truncated TcdA lacking the CROPs, and identified sulfated glycosaminoglycans (sGAGs) and low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) as host factors contributing to binding and entry of TcdA. TcdA recognizes the sulfation group in sGAGs. Blocking sulfation and glycosaminoglycan synthesis reduces TcdA binding and entry into cells. Binding of TcdA to the colonic epithelium can be reduced by surfen, a small molecule that masks sGAGs, by GM-1111, a sulfated heparan sulfate analogue, and by sulfated cyclodextrin, a sulfated small molecule. Cells lacking LDLR also show reduced sensitivity to TcdA, although binding between LDLR and TcdA are not detected, suggesting that LDLR may facilitate endocytosis of TcdA. Finally, GM-1111 reduces TcdA-induced fluid accumulation and tissue damage in the colon in a mouse model in which TcdA is injected into the caecum. These data demonstrate in vivo and pathological relevance of TcdA-sGAGs interactions, and reveal a potential therapeutic approach of protecting colonic tissues by blocking these interactions.

To view abstract in its entirety please click on the following link to be redirected:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31160825?dopt=Abstract&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

A Systematic Review Evaluates the Diagnostic Accuracy of Laboratory Testing Algorithms that Include Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs) to Detect the Presence of C. difficile


The evidence base for the optimal laboratory diagnosis of Clostridioides (Clostridium) difficile in adults is currently unresolved due to the uncertain performance characteristics and various combinations of tests.

This systematic review evaluates the diagnostic accuracy of laboratory testing algorithms that include nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) to detect the presence of C. difficile. The systematic review and meta-analysis included eligible studies (those that had PICO [population, intervention, comparison, outcome] elements) that assessed the diagnostic accuracy of NAAT alone or following glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) or GDH EIAs plus C. difficile toxin EIAs (toxin). The diagnostic yield of NAAT for repeat testing after an initial negative result was also assessed.

Two hundred thirty-eight studies met inclusion criteria. Seventy-two of these studies had sufficient data for meta-analysis. The strength of evidence ranged from high to insufficient. The uses of NAAT only, GDH-positive EIA followed by NAAT, and GDH-positive/toxin-negative EIA followed by NAAT are all recommended as American Society for Microbiology (ASM) best practices for the detection of the C. difficile toxin gene or organism. Meta-analysis of published evidence supports the use of testing algorithms that use NAAT alone or in combination with GDH or GDH plus toxin EIA to detect the presence of C. difficile in adults. There is insufficient evidence to recommend against repeat testing of the sample using NAAT after an initial negative result due to a lack of evidence of harm (i.e., financial, length of stay, or delay of treatment) as specified by the Laboratory Medicine Best Practices (LMBP) systematic review method in making such an assessment. Findings from this systematic review provide clarity to diagnostic testing strategies and highlight gaps, such as low numbers of GDH/toxin/PCR studies, in existing evidence on diagnostic performance, which can be used to guide future clinical research studies.

SOURCE:  To Learn More:  https://cmr.asm.org/content/32/3/e00032-18.long?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter


Clostridioides (Clostridium) difficile infection (CDI) is the leading cause of health care-associated infections in the United States (1, 2). It accounts for 15% to 25% of health care-associated diarrhea cases in all health care settings, with 453,000 documented cases of CDI and 29,000 deaths in the United States in 2015 (3). Acquisition of C. difficile as a health care-associated infection (HAI) is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. This adds a significant burden to the health care system by increasing the length of hospital stay and readmission rates, with significant financial implications. The cost of hospital-associated CDI ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 per case (47) and $500 million to $1.5 billion per year nationally (1, 4, 5, 810).

Accurate diagnosis of CDI is critical for effective patient management and implementation of infection control measures to prevent transmission (11). The diagnosis of CDI requires the combination of appropriate test ordering and accurate laboratory testing to differentiate CDI from non-CDI diarrheal cases, including non-CDI diarrhea in a C. difficile-colonized patient (8). Accurate diagnosis of CDI is critical for appropriate patient management and reduction of harms that may arise from diagnostic error (12) and is critical for implementation of infection control measures to prevent transmission (11). Consequently, among patients presenting with diarrhea, there is significant potential for underdiagnosis or overdiagnosis as can arise from incorrect diagnostic workups (13).

Quality Gap: Factors Associated with the Laboratory Diagnosis of C. difficile

Best practices for laboratory diagnosis of CDI remain controversial (14). Current laboratory practice is not standardized, with wide variation in test methods and diagnostic algorithms. Several laboratory assays are available to support CDI diagnosis in combination with clinical presentation. These include toxigenic culture (TC); the cell cytotoxicity neutralization assay (CCNA); enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) and immunochromatographic assays for the detection of glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH), toxin A or B, or both toxins; and, within the last 10 years, nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs). Currently, two tests, TC and the CCNA, serve as reference methods for the diagnosis of C. difficile infection (15). The principle of the TC test is to detect strains of C. difficile that produce a toxin(s) following culture on an appropriate medium. CCNA detects fecal protein toxins contained within the stool and is often referred to as fecal toxin detection (16). Unfortunately, both tests are slow and labor-intensive.

Commercially available NAATs for C. difficile detection include those based on PCR or loop-mediated or helicase-dependent isothermal amplification (1720). The performance of NAATs and non-NAAT tests is commonly assessed using diagnostic accuracy measures for the presence of the organism (e.g., diagnostic sensitivity, diagnostic specificity, positive predictive value [PPV], and negative predictive value [NPV]). However, these measures may not directly link to the clinical definition of CDI or clinical outcomes, and some measures (e.g., PPV and NPV) are dependent on disease prevalence in the patient population being tested (8, 17, 19, 20). Finally, in addition to diagnostic sensitivity and specificity, other factors influence the choice of testing strategy, such as cost and turnaround time.

The diagnostic accuracies of current commercially available assays (GDH EIAs, toxin A/B EIAs, and NAATs) are based on comparison with one or both of the currently accepted reference methods (TC and CCNA) for the detection of toxigenic C. difficile, and these comparisons are generally made to inform potential replacement of these reference methods. Although a definitive reference “gold standard” is lacking, both TC and CCNA are regarded as acceptable reference methods (15). However, some view the gold standard to be TC of a stool specimen combined with colonic histopathology of pseudomembranous colitis in patients with symptoms, but it is known that there is a spectrum of disease wherein not all patients with C. difficile infection have pseudomembranes (21). Finally, less frequently, colonoscopic or histopathologic findings demonstrating pseudomembranous colitis can be used in diagnostic workups to increase the diagnostic specificity for CDI diagnosis (14).

In contrasting the two reference methods (TC and CCNA), TC, while infrequently performed in clinical laboratories, is regarded as being more analytically sensitive than CCNA for detecting C. difficile in fecal specimens but may have lower diagnostic specificity (and, therefore, a greater likelihood of false-positive [FP] test results). CCNA has been shown to have high diagnostic sensitivity, ranging from 80 to 100%. In addition, CCNA has high diagnostic specificity and positive predictive values as well as having greater clinical utility based upon clinical outcomes (2226). Furthermore, each reference method differs by the target detected: TC detects the presence of C. difficile strains that produce toxins A and/or B in vitro to confirm a toxigenic strain, whereas CCNA detects the presence of free toxin A or B in clinical specimens. Given these contrasting characteristics, there is potential for diagnostic discrepancy between the reference standards. Therefore, observed diagnostic performance may vary according to which reference standard is used.

Given the variety of test methods and diagnostic algorithms, there is disagreement in the laboratory community on whether best practices for the diagnosis of CDI consist of NAAT only or algorithmic testing that includes NAAT (GDH EIA followed by NAAT [GDH/NAAT] or GDH and toxin EIAs followed by NAAT [GDH/toxin/NAAT]) (20). At the initiation of these guidelines, this was the clinical quandary facing individuals who decide on a C. difficile testing strategy for their health care system, particularly as there is limited high-quality evidence to support which diagnostic testing strategy best supports the laboratory diagnosis of CDI (8, 22). Additionally, it remains to be determined if the potential differences in the accuracy of NAAT only or an algorithmic strategy would impact patient management or patient outcomes (27). There are few studies that encompass the nuances of laboratory CDI diagnosis as it occurs in the clinical context, for example, that evaluate the effect of preanalytic testing considerations on outcomes, to include clinical outcomes. This limitation is evident from the recent Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)/Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) systematic review, which included only studies that encompassed C. difficile testing within its clinical context, including preanalytic and postanalytic aspects (11).

Given these practice issues, and related diagnostic quality and patient safety concerns, the goal of this systematic review was to determine which laboratory testing strategies, with the inclusion of NAAT, had the best diagnostic accuracy for CDI. While it is clear that laboratory testing alone without taking into consideration the entire clinical picture is not appropriate for the diagnosis of CDI, the available literature has limited evidence linking laboratory diagnosis with clinical outcomes. Therefore, the questions for this systematic review were refined to be based only on the intermediate outcome of diagnostic accuracy for detecting the presence of the C. difficile organism or toxin. Although the reference standard in these studies defines what is meant by the target condition, this systematic review compares the diagnostic accuracies of these tests, including GDH detection by EIA, toxin detection by EIA, and NAAT, to those of CCNA and TC. It has been clear that preanalytical factors are crucial for NAAT specifically, and many of the studies did not include a preanalytical component, which limits whether this review can answer the question, Does this patient have C. difficile infection?

The questions that guided this systematic review were the following: (i) What is the diagnostic accuracy of NAAT only versus either TC or CCNA for detection of the C. difficile toxin gene?, (ii) What is the diagnostic accuracy of a GDH-positive EIA followed by NAAT versus either TC or CCNA for detection of the C. difficile organism/toxin gene?, (iii) What is the diagnostic accuracy of a GDH-positive/toxin-negative EIA followed by NAAT versus either TC or CCNA for detection of the C. difficile organism/toxin/toxin gene?, and (iv) What is the increased diagnostic yield of repeat testing using NAAT after an initial negative result for C. difficile detection of the toxin gene?

The goals of analysis based on these questions were specifically to evaluate the effectiveness of the following: (i) the diagnostic accuracies of NAAT-only and algorithmic (“two-step” or “three-step”) testing strategies, including detection of toxin or GDH in addition to NAAT, and (ii) the diagnostic yield of repeat testing after an initial negative NAAT result. The evidence supporting these two important issues was evaluated by applying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Laboratory Medicine Best Practices (LMBP) Initiative’s systematic review method for translating results into evidence-based recommendations (28). The method has recently been used to evaluate practices for improving blood culture contamination (29), blood sample hemolysis (30), urine culture sample quality (31), timeliness of providing targeted therapy for bloodstream infections (32), and laboratory test utilization (33), in addition to others, and can be found at the CDC LMBP website (https://www.cdc.gov/labbestpractices/our-findings.html).

Dr. Michael Pride, a Pfizer Scientist, Leads a Team Searching For Ways to Improve Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment of Clostridium difficile Infections

Dr. Pride of Pfizer leads a team that is searching for ways to improve diagnoses & treatment of C. difficile,

Dr. Michael Pride is the Executive Director, Vaccine Research and Development at Pfizer

Challenges, Chance and Looking Forward. Historically, a difficult diagnosis process has posed challenges to treatment for C. difficile infections, as detection is not straightforward. Dr. Pride and his team are working to tackle this issue by developing better ways to diagnose this infection, which will aid efforts to develop a vaccine. Additionally, he is encouraged by recent work that has demonstrated how an antibody can help prevent recurrent diseases, offering insight that an antibody-mediated response, raised by vaccines, may be a way to help reduce a primary episode of a C. difficile infection.

“If our vaccine is successful, we could help have a great impact on global health, reducing morbidity and even mortality worldwide,” he says. “I’m confident in our team, who is working tirelessly so that hopefully no one must suffer from these horrible symptoms again.”

Today, Dr. Pride leads a team of scientists responsible for the development, qualification and validation of various assays that support Pfizer’s vaccine programs.



Click on the link below to learn more about Dr. Michael Pride’s Work: