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C.difficile becoming two species

Tuesday August 13th, 2019

Clostridium difficile is evolving into two distinct species – and one is "highly adapted" to spreading in hospitals, researchers warn today.

The discovery has emerged from work by British scientists, who studied more than 900 strains of the organism from humans, animals and the environment.

The findings were published last night in Nature Genetics and involved researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The emerging species, C.difficile clade A, was found in 70% of samples from hospital patients.

According to the study, it first emerged about 76,000 years ago and started to proliferate at the end of the 16th century.

Researcher Dr Nitin Kumar said: “Our large-scale genetic analysis allowed us to discover that C. difficile is currently forming a new species with one group specialised to spread in hospital environments.

"This emerging species has existed for thousands of years, but this is the first time anyone has studied C. difficile genomes in this way to identify it. This particular bacteria was primed to take advantage of modern healthcare practices and human diets before hospitals even existed.”

Fellow researcher Dr Trevor Lawley, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “Our study provides genome and laboratory based evidence that human lifestyles can drive bacteria to form new species so they can spread more effectively. We show that strains of C. difficile bacteria have continued to evolve in response to modern diets and healthcare systems and reveal that focusing on diet and looking for new disinfectants could help in the fight against this bacteria.”

Nitin Kumar and Hilary Browne et al. Adaptation of host transmission cycle during Clostridium difficile speciation. Nature Genetics 12 August; doi: 10.1038/s41588-019-0478-8

Tags: Gastroenterology | Genetics | MRSA & Hygiene | UK News

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