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ABSTRACTFarm animals have been identified as reservoirs of Clostridium difficile PCR-ribotype 078 (RT078). Since 2005, the incidence of human clinical cases (frequently severe), with this genotype has increased. We aimed to understand this change, by studying the recent evolutionary history of RT078. Phylogenetic analysis of international genomes (isolates from 2006–2014) revealed several recent clonal expansions. A common ancestor of each expansion had independently acquired different alleles of the tetracycline resistance gene tetM. Consequently, an unusually high proportion of RT078 genomes were tetM positive (76.5%). Additional tetracycline resistance determinants were also identified, some for the first time in C. difficile (efflux pump tet40). Each tetM-clonal expansion lacked geographic structure, indicating rapid international spread. Resistance determinants for C. difficile-infection-triggering antimicrobials including fluoroquinolones and clindamycin were comparatively rare in RT078. Tetracyclines are used intensively in agriculture; this selective pressure, plus rapid spread via the food-chain may explain the increased RT078 prevalence in humans.

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