Clostridioides difficile, formerly known as Clostridium difficile, is a pathogen of increasing agricultural and clinical significance. This Gram-positive, anaerobic, toxigenic bacterium produces extremely robust spores which are highly resistant to environmental pressures, allowing this organism to persist in the environment for extended periods. C. difficile is capable of infecting both animals and humans. As a commensal organism it does not typically pose a threat to its host unless antibiotic treatment disrupts the normal gut flora. However following a decline in microbial diversity, C. difficile opportunistically colonises the host gut and proliferates, thereby causing C. difficile infection (CDI). CDI is transmitted via the faecal-oral route with spores surviving transit through the gastrointestinal tract to the gut. Symptoms of CDI range from mild diarrhoea to pseudomembranous colitis (PMC), toxic megacolon and death. C. difficile ribotypes present in farm animals have been found in workers tending to them, suggesting a potential zoonotic transmission. Sporulation is intrinsic to C. difficile’s transmissibility and the spores are highly resilient. Previous joint work at both the Queen’s University Belfast and Royal Victoria Hospital (Belfast) identified a non-sporulating variant of ribotype 078, the most prevalent ribotype infecting humans in Northern Ireland. Investigations into the prevalence of the non-sporulating variant in a range of animal and clinical derived ribotype 078 isolates are currently ongoing. Additionally, the presence of the non-sporulating variant in other toxigenic clades of C. difficile is undergoing assessment.

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