Longitudinal Investigation of <em>Clostridium difficile</em> Shedding in Piglets

There was a significant decrease in colonisation by Clostridium difficile over time, with prevalance falling from 74 per cent on day 2 to below four per cent by day 62, according ot sconetitsts at the University of Guelph in Canada.
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A longitudinal study of Clostridium difficile colonisation in piglets was performed on a conventional swine farm in Ontario, Canada.

Faecal samples were collected from 10 sows prior to their expected farrowing date, and then from all their piglets on days 2, 7, 30, 44 and 62 of life.

C. difficile was isolated from 4/10 (40 per cent) of sows prior to farrowing, 90/121 (74 per cent) piglets on day 2, 66/117 (56 per cent) on day 7, 45/113 (40 per cent) on day 30, 23/101 (23 per cent) on day 44 and 2/54 (3.7 per cent) on day 62. There was a significant decrease in colonization over time (P<0.0001). Overall, C. difficile was isolated from one or more samples from 116/121 (96 per cent) piglets.

There was an inverse association between sow colonisation and piglet colonisation on day 2 (P<0.0001) and a positive association on day 7 (P=0.001). Ribotype 078/toxinotype V predominated, accounting for 213/234 (91 per cent) isolates. A toxinotype XIV strain that has been previously found in humans in the province was the second most common, but was mainly found in sows, not piglets. Overall, 227/234 (97 per cent) of isolates were from types that have been isolated from humans in the province. Intermittent colonization was detected in 11 (9.6 per cent) piglets.

The decline in C. difficile colonisation over the first two months of life was remarkable. The variation in colonisation over a relatively short period of time has important implications for the design and interpretation of studies evaluating C. difficile colonisation in pigs, since relatively small differences in age may have a major confounding effect on the prevalence of colonisation.

The decline in prevalence over time may also have implications on public health concerns, since colonisation rates of animals at the time of slaughter are presumably more relevant than those earlier in life.


Weese J.S., T. Wakeford, R. Reid-Smith, J. Rousseau and Robert Friendship. 2010. Longitudinal investigation of Clostridium difficile shedding in piglets. Anaerobe (in press). doi:10.1016/j.anaerobe.2010.08.001

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August 2010
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