Contribution of spores to the ability of Clostridium difficile to adhere to surfaces.
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Clostridium difficile is the commonest cause of hospital-acquired infection in the United Kingdom. We characterized the abilities of 21 clinical isolates to form spores; to adhere to inorganic and organic surfaces, including stainless steel and human adenocarcinoma cells; and to germinate. The composition of culture media had a significant effect on spore formation, as significantly more spores were produced in brain heart infusion broth (Student's t test; P = 0.018). The spore surface relative hydrophobicity (RH) varied markedly (14 to 77%) and was correlated with the ability to adhere to stainless steel. We observed no correlation between the ribotype and the ability to adhere to steel. When the binding of hydrophobic (DS1813; ribotype 027; RH, 77%) and hydrophilic (DS1748; ribotype 002; RH, 14%) spores to human gut epithelial cells at different stages of cell development was examined, DS1813 spores adhered more strongly, suggesting the presence of surface properties that aid attachment to human cells. Electron microscopy studies revealed the presence of an exosporium surrounding DS1813 spores that was absent from spores of DS1748. Finally, the ability of spores to germinate was found to be strain and medium dependent. While the significance of these findings to the disease process has yet to be determined, this study has highlighted the importance of analyzing multiple isolates when attempting to characterize the behavior of a bacterial species.
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