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clinical microbiology and infection


Clostridium difficile is a major cause of infectious diarrhoea in hospitalised patients. Most pathogenic C. difficile strains produce two toxins, A and B; however, clinically relevant toxin A-negative, toxin Bpositive (A– B+ ) strains of C. difficile that cause diarrhoea and colitis in humans have been isolated worldwide. The aims of this study were to isolate and characterise A– B+ strains from two university hospitals in Dublin, Ireland. Samples positive for C. difficile were identified daily by review of ELISA results and were cultured on selective media. Following culture, toxin-specific immunoassays, IMR-90 cytotoxicity assays and PCR were used to analyse consecutive C. difficile isolates from 93 patients. Using a toxin A-specific ELISA, 52 samples produced detectable toxin. All isolates were positive using a toxin A ⁄ B ELISA. Similarly, all isolates were positive with the cytoxicity assay, although variant cytopathic effects were observed in 41 cases. PCR amplification of the toxin A and toxin B genes revealed that 41 of the previous A– B+ strains had a c. 1.7-kb deletion in the 3¢-end of the tcdA gene. Restriction enzyme analysis of these amplicons revealed the loss of polymorphic restriction sites. These 41 A– B+ isolates were designated toxinotype VIII by comparison with C. difficile strain 1470. PCR ribotyping revealed that all A– B+ isolates belonged to PCR-ribotype 017. A– B+ C. difficile isolates accounted for 44% of the isolates examined in this study, and appeared to be isolated more frequently in Dublin, Ireland, than reported rates for other countries.


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