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Clostridium difficile PCR ribotype 078 (RT078) has multiple reservoirs; many are agricultural. Since 2005, this genotype has been increasingly associated with human infections in both clinical settings and the community. Investigations of RT078 whole-genome sequences revealed that tetracycline resistance had been acquired on multiple independent occasions. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a rapid, recent increase in numbers of closely related tetracycline-resistant RT078 (clonal expansions), suggesting that tetracycline selection has strongly influenced its recent evolutionary history. We demonstrate recent international spread of emergent, tetracycline-resistant RT078. A similar tetracycline-positive clonal expansion was also identified in unrelated nontoxigenic C. difficile , suggesting that this process may be widespread and may be independent of disease-causing ability. Resistance to typical C. difficile infection-associated antimicrobials (e.g., fluoroquinolones, clindamycin) occurred only sporadically within RT078. Selective pressure from tetracycline appears to be a key factor in the emergence of this human pathogen and the rapid international dissemination that followed, plausibly via the food chain.

Original publication




Journal article




American Society for Microbiology

Publication Date