Clostridium difficile is at present one of the most common nosocomial infections in the developed world. Hypervirulent strains (PCR ribotype 027) of C. difficile which produce
enhanced levels of toxins have also been associated with other characteristics such as a greater rate of sporulation and resistance to fluoroquinolones. Infection due to C. difficile PCR ribotype 027 has also been associated with greater rates of morbidity and mortality.
The aim of this thesis was to investigate both the phenotypic and genotypic characteristics of two populations of toxigenic clinical isolates of C. difficile which were recovered from two separate hospital trusts within the UK. Phenotypic characterisation of the isolates was undertaken using analytical profile indexes (APIs), minimum inhibitory concentrations(MICs) and S-layer protein typing. In addition to this, isolates were also investigated for the production of a range of extracellular enzymes as potential virulence factors. Genotypic characterisation was performed using a random amplification of polymorphic DNA(RAPD) PCR protocol which was fully optimised in this study, and the gold standard method, PCR ribotyping. The discriminatory power of both methods was compared and the similarity between the different isolates also analysed. Associations between the phenotypic and genotypic characteristics and the recovery location of the isolate were then investigated. Extracellular enzyme production and API testing revealed little variation between the isolates; with S-layer typing demonstrating low discrimination. Minimum inhibitory concentrations did not identify any resistance towards either vancomycin or metronidazole; there were however significant differences in the distribution of antibiogram profiles of isolates recovered from the two different trusts. The RAPD PCR protocol was successfully optimised and alongside PCR ribotyping, effectively typed all of the clinical isolates and also identified differences in the number of types defined between the two locations. Both PCR ribotyping and RAPD demonstrated similar discriminatory power; however, the two genotyping methods did not generate amplicons that mapped
directly onto each other and therefore clearly characterised isolates based on different genomic markers. The RAPD protocol also identified different subtypes within PCR ribotypes, therefore demonstrating that all isolates defined as a particular PCR ribotype were not the same strain. No associations could be demonstrated between the phenotypic and genotypic characteristics observed; however, the location from which an isolate was recovered did appear to influence antibiotic resistance and genotypic characteristics. The phenotypic and genotypic characteristics observed amongst the C. difficile isolates in this study, may provide a basis for the identification of further targets which may be potentially incorporated into future methods for the characterisation of C. difficile isolates.
- clostridium difficile
- PCR ribotyping