EMBARGOED UNTIL: Tuesday 5/21, 3 PM MDT
(Symposium Session 219)
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, United Kingdom
In the last few years the threats posed by the superbug Clostridium difficile (‘C. diff’) to hospitalised loved ones have frequently been reported in the news media. It causes distressing and often fatal diarrhoea, particularly in the elderly. Most strains of C. diff produce two poisons called toxin A and B which are largely responsible for the disease symptoms. Worryingly, new C. diff strains have emerged that produce a third poison, called binary toxin. These new strains cause more severe disease and appear to be responsible for an alarming increase in the number of patients who have succumbed to the illness.
The aim of our research is to better understand the role of binary toxin, in order to devise more effective ways of controlling C. diff infection rates.
The work here presented was carried out by members of the C. diff team within the Clostridia Research Group at Nottingham University, UK. They were assisted by the team of Anne Collignon in Paris, France. The Clostridia Research Group comprises of over 40 post-graduate and post-doctoral scientists, led by Professor Nigel Minton. This work was financially supported by the Medical Research Council, UK, the European Union and the University of Nottingham Medical Faculty and will be presented at the asm2013 in Denver, Colorado, May 18-21, 2013. Session Title: The Ecology of Clostridium difficile Infections, Session Day/Date/Time: Tuesday May 21, 2013 3:00 PM - 5:30 PM.
We have developed an impressive number of innovative gene tools at Nottingham, some of which have been employed in this study.
As yet, scientists do not understand how binary toxin contributes to disease. Is the binary toxin produced by these new strains responsible for the increased mortalities? Does it work alone or in concert with toxin A and B? Do we need to consider binary toxin when developing diagnostics and/or vaccines?
We created strains that can either only produce binary toxin (and not toxin A and B) or strains producing binary toxin and only one of the other toxins. These strains were tested on cell lines for cytotoxic effects and also in established animal models.
We obtained tantalizing data that the binary toxin may also contribute to disease. Future work will be necessary before the role of the binary toxin is fully understood, but in the meantime it appears prudent to also test for binary toxin.