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1.  Isolation and Characterization of a Defensin-Like Peptide (Coprisin) from the Dung Beetle, Copris tripartitus 
The antibacterial activity of immune-related peptides, identified by a differential gene expression analysis, was investigated to suggest novel antibacterial peptides. A cDNA encoding a defensin-like peptide, Coprisin, was isolated from bacteria-immunized dung beetle, Copris tripartitus, by using differential dot blot hybridization. Northern blot analysis showed that Coprisin mRNA was up-regulated from 4 hours after bacteria injection and its expression level was reached a peak at 16 hours. The deduced amino acid sequence of Coprisin was composed of 80 amino acids with a predicted molecular weight of 8.6 kDa and a pI of 8.7. The amino acid sequence of mature Coprisin was found to be 79.1% and 67.4% identical to those of defensin-like peptides of Anomala cuprea and Allomyrina dichotoma, respectively. We also investigated active sequences of Coprisin by using amino acid modification. The result showed that the 9-mer peptide, LLCIALRKK-NH2, exhibited potent antibacterial activities against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
PMCID: PMC2915626  PMID: 20721297
2.  Structure-activity relationships of the intramolecular disulfide bonds in coprisin, a defensin from the dung beetle 
BMB Reports  2014;47(11):625-630.
Defensins, which are small cationic molecules produced by organisms as part of their innate immune response, share a common structural scaffold that is stabilized by three disulfide bridges. Coprisin is a 43-amino acid defensin-like peptide from Copris tripartitus. Here, we report the intramolecular disulfide connectivity of cysteine-rich coprisin, and show that it is the same as in other insect defensins. The disulfide bond pairings of coprisin were determined by combining the enzymatic cleavage and mass analysis. We found that the loss of any single disulfide bond in coprisin eliminated all antibacterial, but not antifungal, activity. Circular dichroism (CD) analysis showed that two disulfide bonds, Cys20-Cys39 and Cys24-Cys41, stabilize coprisin’s α-helical region. Moreover, a BLAST search against UniProtKB database revealed that coprisin’s α-helical region is highly homologous to those of other insect defensins. [BMB Reports 2014; 47(11): 625-630]
PMCID: PMC4281341  PMID: 24393527
Antimicrobial peptide; Circular dichroism; Coprisin; disulfide connectivity; Insect defensin
3.  Reduction in Clostridium difficile Infection Rates after Mandatory Hospital Public Reporting: Findings from a Longitudinal Cohort Study in Canada 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001268.
A population-based study conducted by Nick Daneman and colleagues in Ontario, Canada reports on the association between population reporting of hospital infection rates and a reduction in population burden of Clostridium difficile colitis.
The role of public reporting in improving hospital quality of care is controversial. Reporting of hospital-acquired infection rates has been introduced in multiple health care systems, but its relationship to infection rates has been understudied. Our objective was to determine whether mandatory public reporting by hospitals is associated with a reduction in hospital rates of Clostridium difficile infection.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a longitudinal, population-based cohort study in Ontario (Canada's largest province) between April 1, 2002, and March 31, 2010. We included all patients (>1 y old) admitted to 180 acute care hospitals. Using Poisson regression, we developed a model to predict hospital- and age-specific monthly rates of C. difficile disease per 10,000 patient-days prior to introduction of public reporting on September 1, 2008. We then compared observed monthly rates of C. difficile infection in the post-intervention period with rates predicted by the pre-intervention predictive model. In the pre-intervention period there were 33,634 cases of C. difficile infection during 39,221,113 hospital days, with rates increasing from 7.01 per 10,000 patient-days in 2002 to 10.79 in 2007. In the first calendar year after the introduction of public reporting, there was a decline in observed rates of C. difficile colitis in Ontario to 8.92 cases per 10,000 patient-days, which was significantly lower than the predicted rate of 12.16 (95% CI 11.35–13.04) cases per 10,000 patient-days (p<0.001). Over this period, public reporting was associated with a 26.7% (95% CI 21.4%–31.6%) reduction in C. difficile cases, or a projected 1,970 cases averted per year (95% CI 1,476–2,500). The effect was specific to C. difficile, with rates of community-acquired gastrointestinal infections and urinary tract infections unchanged. A limitation of our study is that this observational study design cannot rule out the influence of unmeasured temporal confounders.
Public reporting of hospital C. difficile rates was associated with a substantial reduction in the population burden of this infection. Future research will be required to discern the direct mechanism by which C. difficile infection rates may have been reduced in response to public reporting.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
A stay in hospital can be lifesaving but can expose people to health care–associated infections. One of these—Clostridium difficile infection—is a major cause of infectious disease illness and death in developed countries. C. difficile bacteria cause diarrhea and, more rarely, life-threatening inflammation of the gut (colitis). They are present in the gut of about 3% of adults but do not normally cause any problems because other “good” bacteria keep them in check. However, antibiotics destroy these good bacteria, and if a person who has taken antibiotics becomes infected with C. difficile before good bacteria repopulate the gut, C. difficile can multiply rapidly and produce toxins that cause illness. Because C. difficile is usually acquired from other infected patients and their contaminated environments, and because antibiotic use is highly prevalent in hospitals, most C. difficile infections are acquired in hospitals and nursing homes. Infections can be prevented by practicing good hygiene in health care environments (for example, washing hands regularly with soap and water), by isolating patients who are infected with C. difficile, and by prescribing antibiotics for other infections sparingly.
Why Was This Study Done?
Hospitals often need encouragement to improve infection control and other aspects of care. One potential way to improve the quality of hospital care is mandatory public reporting of measures of care quality. This intervention may help hospitals identify areas of poor performance to target for improvement or may motivate them to improve care quality to avoid the shame of a bad performance report. Although many health care systems have introduced public reporting of hospital-acquired infections, the effects of this intervention have been poorly studied. In this longitudinal cohort study, the researchers use population-based health care data to evaluate the impact of the introduction of mandatory hospital public reporting of the rates of hospital-acquired C. difficile infection in Ontario, Canada. Since September 1, 2008, hospitals in Ontario have been required to send monthly data on hospital-acquired C. difficile infections to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for posting on a public website.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used health care administrative data for all patients older than one year admitted to acute care hospitals in Ontario between April 1, 2002, and March 31, 2010, to develop a model to predict monthly rates of C. difficile disease per 10,000 patient-days based on rates in the period before the introduction of public reporting. They then compared the observed rates of C. difficile disease after the introduction of public reporting with the rates predicted by this model. In the pre-intervention period, there were nearly 34,000 cases of C. difficile disease during about 39 million hospital days. Rates of C. difficile disease increased from 7.01 cases per 10,000 patient-days in 2002 to 10.79 cases per 10,000 patient-days in 2007. After the introduction of public reporting, the C. difficile disease rate fell to 8.92 cases per 10,000 patient-days, which is significantly (that is, unlikely to have occurred by chance) lower than the 12.16 cases per 10,000 patient-days predicted by the pre-intervention model. Finally, the researchers estimate that public reporting was associated with a 26.6% reduction in C. difficile disease cases and that it averted about 1,900 cases per year.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that mandatory public reporting of hospital rates of C. difficile disease may reduce the population burden of this serious infection. Because this is an observational study, these findings do not prove that the introduction of mandatory public reporting actually caused a reduction in infection rates. Some other uncharacterized factor might be responsible for the decrease in C. difficile disease in Ontario hospitals since late 2008. Moreover, the many assumptions included in the predictive model means that the estimated number of cases averted by the introduction of public reporting may be inaccurate. Although further research is needed to determine how public reporting might affect C. difficile disease rates, the researchers suggest that, in this study, mandatory public reporting may have increased the prominence of C. difficile on hospital quality improvement agendas and may have motivated hospitals to adhere more closely to best practices in C. difficile prevention.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides detailed information about C. difficile infection, including an article called Making Health Care Safer: Stopping C. difficile Infections
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about C. difficile infections
The Health Protection Agency provides information about mandatory reporting of C. difficile infections in England and Wales and a fact sheet on C. difficile
Information about public reporting of hospital C. difficile rates in Ontario is available (in English and French)
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about C. difficile infections (in English and Spanish)
The UK Clostridium Difficle Support website has a forum containing personal stories about C. difficile infection
PMCID: PMC3398960  PMID: 22815656
4.  Clostridium difficile Spore-Macrophage Interactions: Spore Survival 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43635.
Clostridium difficile is the main cause of nosocomial infections including antibiotic associated diarrhea, pseudomembranous colitis and toxic megacolon. During the course of Clostridium difficile infections (CDI), C. difficile undergoes sporulation and releases spores to the colonic environment. The elevated relapse rates of CDI suggest that C. difficile spores has a mechanism(s) to efficiently persist in the host colonic environment.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this work, we provide evidence that C. difficile spores are well suited to survive the host’s innate immune system. Electron microscopy results show that C. difficile spores are recognized by discrete patchy regions on the surface of macrophage Raw 264.7 cells, and phagocytosis was actin polymerization dependent. Fluorescence microscopy results show that >80% of Raw 264.7 cells had at least one C. difficile spore adhered, and that ∼60% of C. difficile spores were phagocytosed by Raw 264.7 cells. Strikingly, presence of complement decreased Raw 264.7 cells’ ability to phagocytose C. difficile spores. Due to the ability of C. difficile spores to remain dormant inside Raw 264.7 cells, they were able to survive up to 72 h of macrophage infection. Interestingly, transmission electron micrographs showed interactions between the surface proteins of C. difficile spores and the phagosome membrane of Raw 264.7 cells. In addition, infection of Raw 264.7 cells with C. difficile spores for 48 h produced significant Raw 264.7 cell death as demonstrated by trypan blue assay, and nuclei staining by ethidium homodimer-1.
These results demonstrate that despite efficient recognition and phagocytosis of C. difficile spores by Raw 264.7 cells, spores remain dormant and are able to survive and produce cytotoxic effects on Raw 264.7 cells.
PMCID: PMC3428350  PMID: 22952726
5.  Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus B-30892 can inhibit cytotoxic effects and adhesion of pathogenic Clostridium difficile to Caco-2 cells 
Gut Pathogens  2009;1:8.
Probiotic microorganisms are receiving increasing interest for use in the prevention, treatment, or dietary management of certain diseases, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). Clostridium difficile is the most common cause of AAD and the resulting C. difficile – mediated infection (CDI), is potentially deadly. C. difficile associated diarrhea (CDAD) is manifested by severe inflammation and colitis, mostly due to the release of two exotoxins by C. difficile causing destruction of epithelial cells in the intestine. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus B-30892 (LDB B-30892) on C. difficile-mediated cytotoxicity using Caco-2 cells as a model.
Experiments were carried out to test if the cytotoxicity induced by C. difficile-conditioned-medium on Caco-2 cells can be altered by cell-free supernatant (CFS) from LDB B-30892 in different dilutions (1:2 to 1:2048). In a similar experimental setup, comparative evaluations of other probiotic strains were made by contrasting the results from these strains with the results from LDB B-30892, specifically the ability to affect C. difficile induced cytotoxicity on Caco-2 monolayers. Adhesion assays followed by quantitative analysis by Giemsa staining were conducted to test if the CFSs from LDB B-30892 and other probiotic test strains have the capability to alter the adhesion of C. difficile to the Caco-2 monolayer. Experiments were also performed to evaluate if LDB B-30892 or its released components have any bactericidal effect on C. difficile.
Results and discussion
Co-culturing of LDB B-30892 with C. difficile inhibited the C. difficile-mediated cytotoxicity on Caco-2 cells. When CFS from LDB B-30892-C. difficile co-culture was administered (up to a dilution of 1:16) on Caco-2 monolayer, there were no signs of cytotoxicity. When CFS from separately grown LDB B-30892 was mixed with the cell-free toxin preparation (CFT) of separately cultured C. difficile, the LDB B-30892 CFS was inhibitory to C. difficile CFT-mediated cytotoxicity at a ratio of 1:8 (LDB B-30892 CFS:C. difficile CFT). We failed to find any similar inhibition of C. difficile-mediated cytotoxicity when other probiotic organisms were tested in parallel to LDB B-30892. Our data of cytotoxicity experiments suggest that LDB B-30892 releases one or more bioactive component(s) into the CFS, which neutralizes the cytotoxicity induced by C. difficile, probably by inactivating its toxin(s). Our data also indicate that CFS from LDB B-30892 reduced the adhesion of C. difficile by 81%, which is significantly (P <0.01) higher than all other probiotic organisms tested in this study.
This study reveals the very first findings that Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus B-30892 (LDB B-30892) can eliminate C. difficile-mediated cytotoxicity, using Caco-2 cells as a model. The study also demonstrates that LDB B-30892 can reduce the colonization of C. difficile cells in colorectal cells. More study is warranted to elucidate the specific mechanism of action of such reduction of cytotoxicity and colonization.
PMCID: PMC2680912  PMID: 19397787
6.  Clostridium difficile Toxin B Causes Epithelial Cell Necrosis through an Autoprocessing-Independent Mechanism 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(12):e1003072.
Clostridium difficile is the most common cause of antibiotic-associated nosocomial infection in the United States. C. difficile secretes two homologous toxins, TcdA and TcdB, which are responsible for the symptoms of C. difficile associated disease. The mechanism of toxin action includes an autoprocessing event where a cysteine protease domain (CPD) releases a glucosyltransferase domain (GTD) into the cytosol. The GTD acts to modify and inactivate Rho-family GTPases. The presumed importance of autoprocessing in toxicity, and the apparent specificity of the CPD active site make it, potentially, an attractive target for small molecule drug discovery. In the course of exploring this potential, we have discovered that both wild-type TcdB and TcdB mutants with impaired autoprocessing or glucosyltransferase activities are able to induce rapid, necrotic cell death in HeLa and Caco-2 epithelial cell lines. The concentrations required to induce this phenotype correlate with pathology in a porcine colonic explant model of epithelial damage. We conclude that autoprocessing and GTD release is not required for epithelial cell necrosis and that targeting the autoprocessing activity of TcdB for the development of novel therapeutics will not prevent the colonic tissue damage that occurs in C. difficile – associated disease.
Author Summary
Clostridium difficile is an anaerobic spore-forming bacterium that infects the human colon and causes diarrhea, pseudomembranous colitis, and toxic megacolon. Most people that develop disease symptoms have undergone antibiotic treatment, which alters the normal gut flora and allows C. difficile to flourish. C. difficile secretes two toxins, TcdA and TcdB, that are responsible for the fluid secretion, inflammation, and colonic tissue damage associated with disease. The emergence of hypervirulent strains of C. difficile that are linked to increased morbidity and mortality highlights the need for new therapeutic strategies. One strategy is to inhibit the function of the toxins, thereby decreasing damage to the colon while the patient clears the infection with antibiotics. Toxin function is thought to depend on an autoprocessing event that releases a catalytic ‘effector’ portion of the toxin into the host cell. In the course of trying to identify small molecules that would inhibit such a function, we found that TcdB induces a rapid necrosis in epithelial cells that is not dependent on autoprocessing. The physiological relevance of this observation is confirmed in colonic explants and suggests that inhibiting TcdB autoprocessing will not prevent the colonic tissue damage observed in C. difficile associated diseases.
PMCID: PMC3516567  PMID: 23236283
7.  Hypoxia-inducible factor signaling provides protection in Clostridium difficile-induced intestinal injury 
Gastroenterology  2010;139(1):259-69.e3.
Background & Aims
Clostridium difficile (C.difficile) is the leading cause of nosocomial infectious diarrhea. Increasing incidence, antibiotic resistance and more virulent strains have dramatically increased the number of C.difficile-related deaths worldwide. The innate host response mechanisms to C.difficile are not resolved; however, we hypothesize that hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF-1) plays an innate protective role in C.difficile colitis. Thus, we assessed the impact of C.difficile toxins on the regulation of HIF-1 and evaluated the role of HIF-1α in C.difficile-mediated injury/inflammation.
In vitro studies assessed HIF-1α mRNA, protein levels and DNA binding events in human mucosal biopsies and Caco-2 cells exposed to C.difficile toxins. In vivo studies employed the murine ileal loop model of C.difficile toxin-induced intestinal injury. Mice with targeted deletion of HIF-1α in the intestinal epithelium were used to assess the impact of HIF-1α signaling in response to C.difficile toxin.
Mucosal biopsies and Caco-2 cells exposed to C.difficile toxin displayed a significant increase in HIF-1α transcription and protein levels. Toxin-induced DNA binding was also observed in Caco-2 cells. Toxin-induced HIF-1α accumulation was attenuated by nitric oxide synthase inhibitors. In vivo, deletion of intestinal epithelial HIF-1α resulted in more severe toxin-induced intestinal injury and inflammation. In contrast, stabilization of HIF-1α, with dimethyloxallyl glycine, attenuated toxin-induced injury and inflammation. This was associated with an induction of HIF-1-regulated protective factors including VEGFa, CD73 and intestinal trefoil factor and down-regulation of proinflammatory molecules TNF and KC.
Our study is the first to describe the innate protective role for HIF-1α in response to C.difficile toxins. Harnessing the innate protective actions of HIF-1α in response to C.difficile toxins may represent a novel form of therapy for C.difficile-associated disease.
PMCID: PMC3063899  PMID: 20347817
HIF-1; Clostridium difficile; dimethyloxallyl glycine; epithelial barrier
8.  Tube feeding, the microbiota, and Clostridium difficile infection 
Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is now the leading cause of nosocomial diarrhea in the USA, accounting for 30% of patients with antibiotic-associated diarrhea, 70% of those with antibiotic-associated colitis, and most cases of pseudomembranous colitis. The organism has evolved over the last 8 years to become more virulent and resistant to antimicrobials (NAP1/027 strain) causing a more severe form of the disease that has increased mortality and healthcare costs. While it is generally accepted that the problem results from the overuse of antibiotics, and in particular second and third generation cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and macrolides, recent studies suggest that acid suppression with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may be equally culpable. A further common, but less recognized, etiological factor is the prolonged use of elemental diets. Such diets are totally absorbed within the small intestine and therefore deprive the colonic microbiota of their source of nutrition, namely dietary fiber, fructose oligosaccharides, and resistant starch. The resultant suppression of colonic fermentation leads to suppression of the “good” bacteria, such as butyrate-producers (butyrate being essential for colonic mucosal health), and bifidobacteria and the creation of a “permissive” environment for C. difficile colonization and subsequent infection. Based on this analysis, the best chance of suppressing the emerging C. difficile epidemic is to adopt a 3-pronged attack consisting of (1) avoidance of the use of prophylactic antibiotics, (2) the avoidance of prophylactic PPIs, and (3) the conversion of elemental diet feeding to a diet containing adequate indigestible carbohydrate after the first week of critical illness. In this review, we highlight the rising worldwide incidence of C. difficile associated diarrhea and the role played by non-residue diets in destabilizing the colonic microbiota.
PMCID: PMC2806551  PMID: 20066732
Clostridium difficile; Elemental diets; Enteral nutrition; Microbiota
9.  Antimicrobial Activities of Synthetic Bismuth Compounds against Clostridium difficile 
Clostridium difficile is a major nosocomial pathogen responsible for pseudomembranous colitis and many cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Because of potential relapse of disease with current antimicrobial therapy protocols, there is a need for additional and/or alternative antimicrobial agents for the treatment of disease caused by C. difficile. We have synthesized a systematic series of 14 structurally simple bismuth compounds and assessed their biological activities against C. difficile and four other gastrointestinal species, including Helicobacter pylori. Here, we report on the activities of six compounds that exhibit antibacterial activities against C. difficile, and some of the compounds have MICs of less than 1 μg/ml. Also tested, for comparison, were the activities of bismuth subcitrate and ranitidine bismuth citrate obtained from commercial sources. C. difficile and H. pylori were more sensitive both to the synthetic bismuth compounds and to the commercial products than were Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Proteus mirabilis, and the last three species were markedly resistant to the commercial bismuth salts. Testing with human foreskin fibroblast cells revealed that some of the synthetic compounds were more cytotoxic than others. Killing curves for C. difficile treated with the more active compounds revealed rapid death, and electron microscopy showed that the bismuth of these compounds was rapidly incorporated by C. difficile. Energy dispersive spectroscopy X-ray microanalysis of C. difficile cells containing electron-dense material confirmed the presence of internalized bismuth. Internalized bismuth was not observed in C. difficile treated with synthetic bismuth compounds that lacked antimicrobial activity, which suggests that the uptake of the metal is required for killing activity. The nature of the carrier would seem to determine whether bismuth is transported into susceptible bacteria like C. difficile.
PMCID: PMC89163  PMID: 10049270
10.  Global Analysis of the Sporulation Pathway of Clostridium difficile 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003660.
The Gram-positive, spore-forming pathogen Clostridium difficile is the leading definable cause of healthcare-associated diarrhea worldwide. C. difficile infections are difficult to treat because of their frequent recurrence, which can cause life-threatening complications such as pseudomembranous colitis. The spores of C. difficile are responsible for these high rates of recurrence, since they are the major transmissive form of the organism and resistant to antibiotics and many disinfectants. Despite the importance of spores to the pathogenesis of C. difficile, little is known about their composition or formation. Based on studies in Bacillus subtilis and other Clostridium spp., the sigma factors σF, σE, σG, and σK are predicted to control the transcription of genes required for sporulation, although their specific functions vary depending on the organism. In order to determine the roles of σF, σE, σG, and σK in regulating C. difficile sporulation, we generated loss-of-function mutations in genes encoding these sporulation sigma factors and performed RNA-Sequencing to identify specific sigma factor-dependent genes. This analysis identified 224 genes whose expression was collectively activated by sporulation sigma factors: 183 were σF-dependent, 169 were σE-dependent, 34 were σG-dependent, and 31 were σK-dependent. In contrast with B. subtilis, C. difficile σE was dispensable for σG activation, σG was dispensable for σK activation, and σF was required for post-translationally activating σG. Collectively, these results provide the first genome-wide transcriptional analysis of genes induced by specific sporulation sigma factors in the Clostridia and highlight that diverse mechanisms regulate sporulation sigma factor activity in the Firmicutes.
Author Summary
C. difficile is the leading cause of healthcare-associated infectious diarrhea in the United States in large part because of its ability to form spores. Since spores are resistant to most disinfectants and antibiotics, C. difficile infections frequently recur and are easily spread. Despite the importance of spores to C. difficile transmission, little is known about how spores are made. We set out to address this question by generating C. difficile mutants lacking regulatory factors required for sporulation and identifying genes that are regulated by these factors during spore formation using whole-genome RNA-Sequencing. We determined that the regulatory pathway controlling sporulation in C. difficile differs from related Clostridium species and the non-pathogenic model spore-former Bacillus subtilis and identified 314 genes that are induced during C. difficile spore development. Collectively, our study provides a framework for identifying C. difficile gene products that are essential for spore formation. Further characterization of these gene products may lead to the identification of diagnostic biomarkers and the development of new therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3738446  PMID: 23950727
11.  Bile Salt Inhibition of Host Cell Damage by Clostridium Difficile Toxins 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79631.
Virulent Clostridium difficile strains produce toxin A and/or toxin B that are the etiological agents of diarrhea and pseudomembranous colitis. Treatment of C. difficile infections (CDI) has been hampered by resistance to multiple antibiotics, sporulation, emergence of strains with increased virulence, recurrence of the infection, and the lack of drugs that preserve or restore the colonic bacterial flora. As a result, there is new interest in non-antibiotic CDI treatments. The human conjugated bile salt taurocholate was previously shown in our laboratory to inhibit C. difficile toxin A and B activities in an in vitro assay. Here we demonstrate for the first time in an ex vivo assay that taurocholate can protect Caco-2 colonic epithelial cells from the damaging effects of the C. difficile toxins. Using caspase-3 and lactate dehydrogenase assays, we have demonstrated that taurocholate reduced the extent of toxin B-induced apoptosis and cell membrane damage. Confluent Caco-2 cells cultured with toxin B induced elevated caspase-3 activity. Remarkably, addition of 5 mM taurocholate reduced caspase-3 activity in cells treated with 2, 4, 6, and 12 µg/ml of toxin B by 99%, 78%, 64%, and 60%, respectively. Furthermore, spent culture medium from Caco-2 cells incubated with both toxin B and taurocholate exhibited significantly decreased lactate dehydrogenase activity compared to spent culture medium from cells incubated with toxin B only. Our results suggest that the mechanism of taurocholate-mediated inhibition functions at the level of toxin activity since taurocholate did not affect C. difficile growth and toxin production. These findings open up a new avenue for the development of non-antibiotic therapeutics for CDI treatment.
PMCID: PMC3823588  PMID: 24244530
12.  Nondigestible Oligosaccharides Enhance Bacterial Colonization Resistance against Clostridium difficile In Vitro 
Clostridium difficile is the principal etiologic agent of pseudomembranous colitis and is a major cause of nosocomial antibiotic-associated diarrhea. A limited degree of success in controlling C. difficile infection has been achieved by using probiotics; however, prebiotics can also be used to change bacterial community structure and metabolism in the large gut, although the effects of these carbohydrates on suppression of clostridial pathogens have not been well characterized. The aims of this study were to investigate the bifidogenicity of three nondigestible oligosaccharide (NDO) preparations in normal and antibiotic-treated fecal microbiotas in vitro and their abilities to increase barrier resistance against colonization by C. difficile by using cultural and molecular techniques. Fecal cultures from three healthy volunteers were challenged with a toxigenic strain of C. difficile, and molecular probes were used to monitor growth of the pathogen, together with growth of bifidobacterial and bacteroides populations, over a time course. Evidence of colonization resistance was assessed by determining viable bacterial counts, short-chain fatty acid formation, and cytotoxic activity. Chemostat studies were then performed to determine whether there was a direct correlation between bifidobacteria and C. difficile suppression. NDO were shown to stimulate bifidobacterial growth, and there were concomitant reductions in C. difficile populations. However, in the presence of clindamycin, activity against bifidobacteria was augmented in the presence of NDO, resulting in a further loss of colonization resistance. In the absence of clindamycin, NDO enhanced colonization resistance against C. difficile, although this could not be attributed to bifidobacterium-induced inhibitory phenomena.
PMCID: PMC154806  PMID: 12676665
13.  The antimicrobial peptide cathelicidin modulates Clostridium difficile-associated colitis and toxin A-mediated enteritis in mice 
Gut  2012;62(9):1295-1305.
Clostridium difficile mediates intestinal inflammation by releasing toxin A (TxA), a potent enterotoxin. Cathelicidins (Camp as gene name, LL-37 peptide in humans and mCRAMP peptide in mice) are antibacterial peptides that also posses anti-inflammatory properties.
To determine the role of cathelicidins in models of Clostridium difficile infection and TxA-mediated ileal inflammation and cultured human primary monocytes.
Wild-type (WT) and mCRAMP-deficient (Camp−/−) mice were treated with an antibiotic mixture and infected orally with C difficile. Some mice were intracolonically given mCRAMP daily for 3 days. Ileal loops were also prepared in WT mice and treated with either saline or TxA and incubated for 4 h, while some TxA-treated loops were injected with mCRAMP.
Intracolonic mCRAMP administration to C difficile-infected WT mice showed significantly reduced colonic histology damage, apoptosis, tissue myeloperoxidase (MPO) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)α levels. Ileal mCRAMP treatment also significantly reduced histology damage, tissue apoptosis, MPO and TNFα levels in TxA-exposed ileal loops. WT and Camp−/− mice exhibited similar intestinal responses in both models, implying that C difficile/TxA-induced endogenous cathelicidin may be insufficient to modulate C difficile/TxA-mediated intestinal inflammation. Both LL-37 and mCRAMP also significantly reduced TxA-induced TNFα secretion via inhibition of NF-κB phosphorylation. Endogenous cathelicidin failed to control C difficile and/or toxin A-mediated inflammation and even intestinal cathelicidin expression was increased in humans and mice.
Exogenous cathelicidin modulates C difficile colitis by inhibiting TxA-associated intestinal inflammation. Cathelicidin administration may be a new anti-inflammatory treatment for C difficile toxin-associated disease.
PMCID: PMC3737259  PMID: 22760006
14.  Structural and biochemical analyses of alanine racemase from the multidrug-resistant Clostridium difficile strain 630 
Structures of C. difficile alanine racemase in complex with the PLP cofactor and cycloserine are presented.
Clostridium difficile, a Gram-positive, spore-forming anaerobic bacterium, is the leading cause of infectious diarrhea among hospitalized patients. C. difficile is frequently associated with antibiotic treatment, and causes diseases ranging from antibiotic-associated diarrhea to life-threatening pseudo­membranous colitis. The severity of C. difficile infections is exacerbated by the emergence of hypervirulent and multidrug-resistant strains, which are difficult to treat and are often associated with increased mortality rates. Alanine racemase (Alr) is a pyridoxal-5′-phosphate (PLP)-dependent enzyme that catalyzes the reversible racemization of l- and d-alanine. Since d-alanine is an essential component of the bacterial cell-wall peptidoglycan, and there are no known Alr homologs in humans, this enzyme is being tested as an antibiotic target. Cycloserine is an antibiotic that inhibits Alr. In this study, the catalytic properties and crystal structures of recombinant Alr from the virulent and multidrug-resistant C. difficile strain 630 are presented. Three crystal structures of C. difficile Alr (CdAlr), corresponding to the complex with PLP, the complex with cycloserine and a K271T mutant form of the enzyme with bound PLP, are presented. The structures are prototypical Alr homodimers with two active sites in which the cofactor PLP and cycloserine are localized. Kinetic analyses reveal that the K271T mutant CdAlr has the highest catalytic constants reported to date for any Alr. Additional studies are needed to identify the basis for the high catalytic activity. The structural and activity data presented are first steps towards using CdAlr for the development of structure-based therapeutics for C. difficile infections.
PMCID: PMC4089486  PMID: 25004969
Clostridium difficile infection; alanine racemase; pyridoxal-5′-phosphate; drug development; multidrug resistance; nosocomial infections; cycloserine; structure-based drug design
15.  Identification of toxigenic Clostridium difficile by the polymerase chain reaction. 
Toxigenic strains of Clostridium difficile are causative agents of pseudomembranous colitis and antimicrobial agent-associated diarrhea and colitis. The toxigenicity is routinely assayed by using highly sensitive cell cultures. We used a simple and rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay to differentiate toxigenic and nontoxigenic strains of C. difficile. Two sets of oligonucleotide primer pairs derived from nonrepeating sequences of the toxin A gene were used to amplify 546- and 252-bp DNA fragments. A primer pair derived from repeating sequences of the toxin A gene was used to amplify a 1,266-bp DNA product. Amplified products were visualized by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis followed by ethidium bromide staining. All 35 cytotoxic strains of C. difficile tested generated the expected amplified DNA. In contrast, none of the 26 noncytotoxic strains tested gave positive results. Although the toxins of C. difficile have been demonstrated to cross-react serologically with the toxins of Clostridium sordellii, we did not detect any amplified DNA in two cytotoxic strains or seven noncytotoxic strains of C. sordellii. PCR was negative in all 30 strains of 20 other Clostridium species. Southern hybridization of HindIII-digested genomic DNA by use of subgenomic probes showed a single hybridization band in toxigenic strains but not in nontoxigenic strains. PCR appears to be a sensitive and specific assay for the rapid identification of toxigenic C. difficile. Nontoxigenic C. difficile appeared to lack the C. difficile toxin A gene.
PMCID: PMC269697  PMID: 1993763
16.  Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy for severe Clostridium difficile colitis 
Gut  1997;41(3):366-370.
Background—Many individuals have serum antibodies against Clostridium difficile toxins. Those with an impaired antitoxin response may be susceptible to recurrent, prolonged, or severe C difficile diarrhoea and colitis. 
Aims—To examine whether treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin might be effective in patients with severe pseudomembranous colitis unresponsive to standard antimicrobial therapy. 
Patients—Two patients with pseudomembranous colitis not responding to metronidazole and vancomycin were given normal pooled human immunoglobulin intravenously (200-300 mg/kg). 
Methods—Antibodies against C difficile toxins were measured in nine immunoglobulin preparations by ELISA and by cytotoxin neutralisation assay. 
Results—Both patients responded quickly as shown by resolution of diarrhoea, abdominal tenderness, and distension. All immunoglobulin preparations tested contained IgG against C difficile toxins A and B by ELISA and neutralised the cytotoxic activity of C difficile toxins in vitro at IgG concentrations of 0.4-1.6 mg/ml. 
Conclusion—Passive immunotherapy with intravenous immunoglobulin may be a useful addition to antibiotic therapy for severe, refractory C difficile colitis. IgG antitoxin is present in standard immunoglobulin preparations and C difficile toxin neutralising activity is evident at IgG concentrations which are readily achieved in the serum by intravenous immunoglobulin administration. 

Keywords: Clostridium difficile; toxin; diarrhoea; IgG; immunotherapy; antibiotic
PMCID: PMC1891485  PMID: 9378393
17.  Profound Alterations of Intestinal Microbiota following a Single Dose of Clindamycin Results in Sustained Susceptibility to Clostridium difficile-Induced Colitis 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(1):62-73.
Antibiotic-induced changes in the intestinal microbiota predispose mammalian hosts to infection with antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Clostridium difficile is a Gram-positive intestinal pathogen that causes colitis and diarrhea in patients following antibiotic treatment. Clindamycin predisposes patients to C. difficile colitis. Here, we have used Roche-454 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing to longitudinally characterize the intestinal microbiota of mice following clindamycin treatment in the presence or absence of C. difficile infection. We show that a single dose of clindamycin markedly reduces the diversity of the intestinal microbiota for at least 28 days, with an enduring loss of ca. 90% of normal microbial taxa from the cecum. Loss of microbial complexity results in dramatic sequential expansion and contraction of a subset of bacterial taxa that are minor contributors to the microbial consortium prior to antibiotic treatment. Inoculation of clindamycin-treated mice with C. difficile (VPI 10463) spores results in rapid development of diarrhea and colitis, with a 4- to 5-day period of profound weight loss and an associated 40 to 50% mortality rate. Recovering mice resolve diarrhea and regain weight but remain highly infected with toxin-producing vegetative C. difficile bacteria and, in comparison to the acute stage of infection, have persistent, albeit ameliorated cecal and colonic inflammation. The microbiota of “recovered” mice remains highly restricted, and mice remain susceptible to C. difficile infection at least 10 days following clindamycin, suggesting that resolution of diarrhea and weight gain may result from the activation of mucosal immune defenses.
PMCID: PMC3255689  PMID: 22006564
18.  Electrophoretic characterization of Clostridium difficile strains isolated from antibiotic-associated colitis and other conditions. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1988;26(3):540-543.
Clostridium difficile has been recognized as the cause of antibiotic-associated pseudomembranous colitis and of less severe diarrheal diseases associated with the use of antimicrobial agents. However, healthy carriers of this microorganism have been found, particularly healthy neonates and small children. Various typing systems have been used to clarify the epidemiology of C. difficile. We used the electrophoretic patterns of EDTA-extracted proteins to characterize C. difficile strains from various sources. Altogether, 110 strains were studied, including 2 reference strains, and 21 different protein profiles were obtained. However, two patterns were the most common: the group 2 pattern, characterized by a major 35-kilodalton polypeptide band, and the group 5 pattern, identified by principal bands of 37 and 56 kilodaltons. The group 2 pattern was characteristic of strains isolated during hospital outbreaks and from sporadic cases of pseudomembranous colitis and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. The group 5 pattern was obtained only from isolates from healthy neonates and children. A correlation between electrophoretic characteristics and virulence can be hypothesized, namely that group 2 strains are more prone to induce diseases and cause outbreaks. It is noteworthy that strains isolated from children with diarrhea of unknown etiology, not related to antibiotic use, belong to the "virulent" group 2; strains from leukemic patients showed a variety of different patterns, and only two belong to group 2. This characterization can be used to aid studies on the virulence and clinical significance of C. difficile.
PMCID: PMC266328  PMID: 3356792
19.  Rapid Detection of Clostridium difficile in Feces by Real-Time PCR 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(2):730-734.
Clostridium difficile is the major causative agent of nosocomial antibiotic-associated diarrhea, colitis, and pseudomembranous colitis. The pathogenicity of C. difficile is closely related to the production of toxins A and B. Toxigenic C. difficile detection by a tissue culture cytotoxin assay is often considered the “gold standard.” However, this assay is time consuming, as it implies an incubation period of at least 24 h. We have developed a rapid real-time fluorescence-based multiplex PCR assay targeting the C. difficile toxin genes tcdA and tcdB, with the Smart Cycler. Two molecular beacons bearing different fluorophores were used as internal probes specific for each amplicon type. The analytical sensitivity of the assay was around 10 genome copies for all nine C. difficile strains tested, representing the 6 most common toxinotypes. The specificity was demonstrated by the absence of amplification with DNA purified from bacterial species other than C. difficile (n = 14), including Clostridium sordellii for which the lethal toxin gene sequence is closely related to the toxin genes of C. difficile. Following a rapid (15 min) and simple fecal sample preparation protocol, both tcdA and tcdB were efficiently amplified from 28 of 29 cytotoxin-positive feces samples. There was no amplification observed with all 27 cytotoxin-negative feces samples tested. This is the first real-time PCR assay for the detection of C. difficile. It is rapid, sensitive, and specific and allows detection of C. difficile directly from feces samples.
PMCID: PMC149705  PMID: 12574274
20.  Clostridium difficile Toxin CDT Induces Formation of Microtubule-Based Protrusions and Increases Adherence of Bacteria 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(10):e1000626.
Clostridium difficile causes antibiotic-associated diarrhea and pseudomembranous colitis by production of the Rho GTPase-glucosylating toxins A and B. Recently emerging hypervirulent Clostridium difficile strains additionally produce the binary ADP-ribosyltransferase toxin CDT (Clostridium difficile transferase), which ADP-ribosylates actin and inhibits actin polymerization. Thus far, the role of CDT as a virulence factor is not understood. Here we report by using time-lapse- and immunofluorescence microscopy that CDT and other binary actin-ADP-ribosylating toxins, including Clostridium botulinum C2 toxin and Clostridium perfringens iota toxin, induce redistribution of microtubules and formation of long (up to >150 µm) microtubule-based protrusions at the surface of intestinal epithelial cells. The toxins increase the length of decoration of microtubule plus-ends by EB1/3, CLIP-170 and CLIP-115 proteins and cause redistribution of the capture proteins CLASP2 and ACF7 from microtubules at the cell cortex into the cell interior. The CDT-induced microtubule protrusions form a dense meshwork at the cell surface, which wrap and embed bacterial cells, thereby largely increasing the adherence of Clostridia. The study describes a novel type of microtubule structure caused by less efficient microtubule capture and offers a new perspective for the pathogenetic role of CDT and other binary actin-ADP-ribosylating toxins in host–pathogen interactions.
Author Summary
Clostridium difficile is responsible for ∼20 percent of antibiotic-related cases of diarrhea and nearly all cases of pseudomembranous colitis. The pathogens produce two protein toxins (toxins A and B), which inactivate Rho-GTPases of host cells by glucosylation. Recently emerging hypervirulent strains of C. difficile release higher amounts of toxins A and B, are resistant towards fluoroquinolones and produce an additional protein toxin called C. difficile transferase (CDT). CDT is a binary toxin, which modifies G-actin by ADP-ribosylation, thereby inhibiting actin polymerization. So far the pathogenetic role of CDT is not clear. Here we studied the effects of CDT on human colon carcinoma cells and show that the toxin causes rearrangement of microtubules and formation of long cellular protrusions. The microtubule-based protrusions form a dense meshwork at the cell surface, which wrap and embed Clostridia, thereby increasing adherence of the pathogens. We observed similar effects with other members of the family of binary actin-ADP-ribosylating toxins like C. botulinum C2 toxin and C. perfringens iota toxin. Our findings show a novel type of microtubule structures induced by actin-ADP-ribosylating toxins and propose an important role of these toxins in host–pathogen interactions by their effects on adherence and colonization of Clostridia.
PMCID: PMC2757728  PMID: 19834554
21.  Clostridium difficile: its disease and toxins. 
Clostridium difficile is the etiologic agent of pseudomembranous colitis, a severe, sometimes fatal disease that occurs in adults undergoing antimicrobial therapy. The disease, ironically, has been most effectively treated with antibiotics, although some of the newer methods of treatment such as the replacement of the bowel flora may prove more beneficial for patients who continue to relapse with pseudomembranous colitis. The organism produces two potent exotoxins designated toxin A and toxin B. Toxin A is an enterotoxin believed to be responsible for the diarrhea and mucosal tissue damage which occur during the disease. Toxin B is an extremely potent cytotoxin, but its role in the disease has not been as well studied. There appears to be a cascade of events which result in the expression of the activity of these toxins, and these events, ranging from the recognition of a trisaccharide receptor by toxin A to the synergistic action of the toxins and their possible dissemination in the body, are discussed in this review. The advantages and disadvantages of the various assays, including tissue culture assay, enzyme immunoassay, and latex agglutination, currently used in the clinical diagnosis of the disease also are discussed.
PMCID: PMC358025  PMID: 3144429
22.  Toll-Like Receptor 5 Stimulation Protects Mice from Acute Clostridium difficile Colitis▿  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(4):1498-1503.
Clostridium difficile is a spore-forming bacterium that infects the lower intestinal tract of humans and is the most common known cause of diarrhea among hospitalized patients. Clostridium difficile colitis is mediated by toxins and develops during or following antibiotic administration. We have used a murine model of C. difficile infection, which reproduces the major features of the human disease, to study the effect of innate immune activation on resistance to C. difficile infection. We found that administration of purified Salmonella-derived flagellin, a Toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5) agonist, protects mice from C. difficile colitis by delaying C. difficile growth and toxin production in the colon and cecum. TLR5 stimulation significantly improves pathological changes in the cecum and colon of C. difficile-infected mice and reduces epithelial cell loss. Flagellin treatment reduces epithelial apoptosis in the large intestine, thereby protecting the integrity of the intestinal epithelial barrier during C. difficile infection. We demonstrate that restoring intestinal innate immune tone by TLR stimulation in antibiotic-treated mice ameliorates intestinal inflammation and prevents death from C. difficile colitis, potentially providing an approach to prevent C. difficile-induced pathology.
PMCID: PMC3067529  PMID: 21245274
23.  Selective and differential medium for isolation of Clostridium difficile. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1979;9(2):214-219.
Clostridium difficile is a recognized cause of pseudomembranous (antimicrobial agent-associated) colitis and may be one of the causes of antimicrobial agent-induced diarrhea. A selective and differential agar medium that contains cycloserine, cefoxitin, fructose, and egg yolk (CCFA) was developed to facilitate the isolation of C. difficile from fecal specimens. Quantitative cultures of 16 stock strains of C. difficile on this medium (and on a medium containing cycloserine, fructose, and egg yolk) yielded counts equivalent to those obtained on blood agar; other media selective for clostridia, including Clostrisel agar, reinforced clostridial agar plus 0.2% para-cresol, and egg yolk-neomycin agar (the latter was inoculated with cultures subjected to prior heat shocking), were also tested and found to be inhibitory to the growth of C. difficile. Of 28 fecal or colostomy effluent specimens cultured on the above media, 14 yielded C. difficile. CCFA was found to be the most sensitive and selective of these media for the recovery of C. difficile. Colonies of C. difficile growing on CCFA had distinctive morphological and fluorescent properties which were sufficient for presumptive identification. CCFA should provide a rapid method for the screening of fecal specimens from patients with antimicrobial agent-associated diarrhea or colitis for C. difficile.
PMCID: PMC272994  PMID: 429542
24.  A unique strain of community-acquired Clostridium difficile in severe complicated infection and death of a young adult 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:299.
Clostridium difficile is the major cause of nosocomial antibiotic-associated diarrhoea with the potential risk of progressing to severe clinical outcomes including death. It is not unusual for Clostridium difficile infection to progress to complications of toxic megacolon, bowel perforation and even Gram-negative sepsis following pathological changes in the intestinal mucosa. These complications are however less commonly seen in community-acquired Clostridium difficile infection than in hospital-acquired Clostridium difficile infection. To the best of our knowledge, this was the first case of community-acquired Clostridium difficile infection of its type seen in Jamaica.
Case presentation
We report a case of a 22-year-old female university student who was admitted to the University Hospital of the West Indies, Jamaica with a presumptive diagnosis of pseudomembranous colitis PMC. She presented with a 5-day history of diarrhoea following clindamycin treatment for coverage of a tooth extraction due to a dental abscess. Her clinical condition deteriorated and progressed from diarrhoea to toxic megacolon, bowel perforation and Gram-negative sepsis. Clostridium difficile NAP12/ribotype 087 was isolated from her stool while blood cultures grew Klebsiella pneumoniae. Despite initial treatment intervention with empiric therapy of metronidazole and antibiotic clearance of Klebsiella pneumoniae from the blood, the patient died within 10 days of hospital admission.
We believe that clindamycin used for coverage of a dental abscess was an independent risk factor that initiated the disruption of the bowel micro-flora, resulting in overgrowth of Clostridium difficile NAP12/ribotype 087. This uncommon strain, which is the same ribotype (087) as ATCC 43255, was apparently responsible for the increased severity of the infection and death following toxic megacolon, bowel perforation and pseudomembranous colitis involving the entire large bowel. K. pneumoniae sepsis, resolved by antibiotic therapy was secondary to Clostridium difficile infection. The case registers community-acquired Clostridium difficile infection as producing serious complications similar to hospital-acquired Clostridium difficile infection and should be treated with the requisite importance.
PMCID: PMC3701549  PMID: 23815405
Clostridium difficile; Klebsiella pneumoniae; Community-Acquired Infection; Diarrhoea; Clindamycin; Pseudomembranous Colitis; Toxic Megacolon
25.  Clostridium difficile and its cytotoxin in feces of patients with antimicrobial agent-associated diarrhea and miscellaneous conditions. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1982;15(6):1049-1053.
Fecal specimens from 223 subjects were evaluated for the presence of Clostridium difficile by use of a selective medium developed in our laboratory and for the presence of C. difficile cytotoxin. C. difficile and cytotoxin were detected in 89 and 83%, respectively, of patients with antimicrobial agent-associated pseudomembranous colitis (PMC). In patients in whom PMC was not documented, C. difficile and cytotoxin were present in only 37 and 21%, respectively. C. difficile and cytotoxin were also recovered from the feces of 6 and 3, respectively, of 13 antimicrobial recipients who did not have diarrhea. Although C. difficile appears to be a major cause of PMC, it is not responsible for at least some two-thirds of cases of antimicrobial agent-associated diarrhea in which PMC is not documented. Neither the recovery of C. difficile nor the detection of its cytotoxin should be considered diagnostic for C. difficile-induced disease.
PMCID: PMC272251  PMID: 7107838

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