Use of highly discriminatory fingerprinting to analyze clusters of Clostridium difficile infection cases due to epidemic ribotype 027 strains

W. N. Fawley, J. Freeman, C. Smith, C. Harmanus, R. J. Van Den Berg, E. J. Kuijper, M. H. Wilcox

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13 Citations (Scopus)


We compared multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) and macrorestriction endonuclease analysis using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to determine their utility to identify clusters of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) among 91 isolates of PCR ribotype 027 (NAP1, for North American pulsed-field type 1) from nine hospitals (and 10 general practitioners associated with one institution) in England. We also examined whether mortality in CDI cases was associated with specific MLVA subtypes. PFGE discriminated between ribotype 027 strains at >98% similarity, identifying five pulsovars (I to V) of 1 to 53 isolates. MLVA was markedly more discriminatory, identifying 23 types of 1 to 15 isolates (>71% similarity). PFGE pulsovars I and IV contained 14 and 8 MLVA types, respectively. Twenty-one of twenty-three (91%) of MLVA types were specific to individual PFGE pulsovars. Four CDI clusters were identified in institution A by conventional epidemiological analysis. MLVA typing identified two enlarged and two additional clusters. Thirty of forty-four (68%) patients in institution A with CDI caused by ribotype 027 strains were assigned to seven distinct clusters by a combination of MLVA typing and epidemiological records. Of 33 patients, comprising 14 different MLVA types, nine (27%) died by day 30 (early deaths). Eight of nine (89%) were associated with PFGE type IV C. difficile ribotype 027. Five of nine early deaths were associated with MLVA type 16, which was the dominant type in this cohort (10/33 cases); 4 other distinct MLVA types accounted for the other early deaths. MLVA was far superior to PFGE for analyzing clusters of CDI both within and between institutions. Further study is needed to examine whether subtypes of C. difficile ribotype 027 affect outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)954-960
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

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