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NPJ Biofilms Microbiomes. 2017 Dec 5;3:35. doi: 10.1038/s41522-017-0043-0. eCollection 2017.

High-resolution profiling of the gut microbiome reveals the extent of Clostridium difficile burden.

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Resphera Biosciences, Baltimore, MD USA.
Department of Internal Medicine/Infectious Diseases Division, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI USA.
Baylor University, Waco, TX USA.


Microbiome profiling through 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis has proven to be a useful research tool in the study of C. difficile infection (CDI); however, CDI microbiome studies typically report results at the genus level or higher, thus precluding identification of this pathogen relative to other members of the gut microbiota. Accurate identification of C. difficile relative to the overall gut microbiome may be useful in assessments of colonization in research studies or as a prognostic indicator for patients with CDI. To investigate the burden of C. difficile at the species level relative to the overall gut microbiome, we applied a high-resolution method for 16S rRNA sequence assignment to previously published gut microbiome studies of CDI and other patient populations. We identified C. difficile in 131 of 156 index cases of CDI (average abundance 1.78%), and 18 of 211 healthy controls (average abundance 0.008%). We further detected substantial levels of C. difficile in a subset of infants that persisted over the first two to 12 months of life. Correlation analysis of C. difficile burden compared to other detected species demonstrated consistent negative associations with C. scindens and multiple Blautia species. These analyses contribute insight into the relative burden of C. difficile in the gut microbiome for multiple patient populations, and indicate that high-resolution 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis may prove useful in the development and evaluation of new therapies for CDI.

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