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J Med Microbiol. 2011 Aug;60(Pt 8):1174-80. doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.028514-0. Epub 2011 Feb 17.

Infection of hamsters with the UK Clostridium difficile ribotype 027 outbreak strain R20291.

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Institute of Immunology, Infection and Inflammation, Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK.


Clostridium difficile is the main cause of antibiotic-associated disease, a disease of high socio-economical importance that has recently been compounded by the global spread of the 027 (BI/NAP1/027) ribotype. C. difficile cases attributed to ribotype 027 strains have high recurrence rates (up to 36 %) and increased disease severity. The hamster model of infection is widely accepted as an appropriate model for studying aspects of C. difficile host-pathogen interactions. Using this model we characterized the infection kinetics of the UK 2006 outbreak strain, R20291. Hamsters were orally given a dose of clindamycin, followed 5 days later with 10, 000 C. difficile spores. All 100 % of the hamsters succumbed to infection with a mean time to the clinical end point of 46.7 h. Colonization of the caecum and colon were observed 12 h post-infection reaching a maximum of approximately 3×10(4) c.f.u. per organ, but spores were not detected until 24 h post-infection. At 36 h post-infection C. difficile numbers increased significantly to approximately 6×10(7) c.f.u. per organ where numbers remained high until the clinical end point. Increasing levels of in vivo toxin production coincided with increases in C. difficile numbers in organs reaching a maximum at 36 h post-infection in the caecum. Epithelial destruction and polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) recruitment occurred early on during infection (24 h) accumulating as gross microvilli damage, luminal PMN influx, and blood associated with mucosal muscle and microvilli. These data describe the fatal infection kinetics of the clinical UK epidemic C. difficile strain R20291 in the hamster infection model.

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