Clostridium difficile: a new food safety hazard?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Autors: József Farkas and Csilla Mohácsiné Farkas



When the gut microbiota is damaged by antibiotics, life-threatening inflammation of the colon can be caused in persons with a weakened immune system by highly virulent strains of Clostridium difficile, an anaerobic spore-forming and polypeptide toxin producing bacterium. C. difficile infection (CDI) has become an epidemic problem of paramount importance in hospitals. In the present paper, surveying relevant recent literature, attention is called to the problem that this pathogen can potentionally zoonotic and might be transmitted with foods. Although there are no proven cases of foodborne CDI, strains of epidemiological importance of the bacteria have been isolated from different foods more or less frequently in recent years. Molecular diagnostic methods are employed successfully in clinical microbiological practice. However, for food safety purposes, multifaceted research is still necessary, as well as the development, adoption and implementation of analytical methods that can be standardized.


Clostridium difficile is an anaerobic spore-forming and polypeptide toxin producing bacterium that has been an epidemiological problem of paramount importance in Hungarian hospitals as well, since the turn of the millennium (1), (2). The reason for this is the spreading of its highly virulent strains first in North America and then, shortly afterwards, in Europe. Infection occurs when the „normal” gut microbiota is damaged (3), due to, for instance, the use of antibiotics. Symptoms of the illness range from mild diarrhea to life-threatening pseudomembranous colitis. Advanced age and a weakened immune system are especially important risk factors. These factors can cause a particularly important problem in societies with aging populations. However, a smaller or larger fraction of the population is a „carrier” of the bacterium, free of clinical symptoms. Nontoxigenic strains of it are also widespread in nature.



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