Clostridium difficile PCR ribotype 078 (RT078) has multiple reservoirs; many are agricultural. Since 2005, this genotype has been increasingly associated with human infections in both clinical settings and the community. Investigations of RT078 whole-genome sequences revealed that tetracycline resistance had been acquired on multiple independent occasions. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a rapid, recent increase in numbers of closely related tetracycline-resistant RT078 (clonal expansions), suggesting that tetracycline selection has strongly influenced its recent evolutionary history. We demonstrate recent international spread of emergent, tetracycline-resistant RT078. A similar tetracycline-positive clonal expansion was also identified in unrelated nontoxigenic C. difficile , suggesting that this process may be widespread and may be independent of disease-causing ability. Resistance to typical C. difficile infection-associated antimicrobials (e.g., fluoroquinolones, clindamycin) occurred only sporadically within RT078. Selective pressure from tetracycline appears to be a key factor in the emergence of this human pathogen and the rapid international dissemination that followed, plausibly via the food chain.
American Society for Microbiology