Clostridium (Clostridioides) difficile shedding by polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the Canadian Arctic.


Dept of Pathobiology, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, On, N1G2W1, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]


Clostridium (Clostridioides) difficile has been identified in humans and a wide range of animal species, but there has been little study of remote animal populations with limited human contact. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and types of C. difficile in wild and captive polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Fecal samples were collected from two populations of wild polar bears in Nunavut Canada; M'Clintock Channel and Hudson Strait (Davis Strait or Foxe Basin), as well as from a facility (PBJ) in Churchill, Manitoba that temporarily houses nuisance polar bears and from captive bears in a zoological park. Enrichment culture was performed and isolates were characterized by ribotyping and toxinotyping. Clostridium difficile was isolated from 24/143 (16.8%) of samples; 18/120 (15%) wild bear samples, 4/7 (57%) from the PBJ and 2/16 (13%) samples from three zoo bears. The prevalence of C. difficile was significantly higher in bears that were housed at the PBJ vs wild bears (P = 0.0042), but there was no difference between wild bears from M'Clintock Channel (14/100, 14%) and those from Hudson Strait (4/20, 20%) (P = 0.50). Fourteen of the 24 (58%) isolates were toxigenic; 13/18 (72%) wild bear isolates, 0/4 PBJ isolate and 1/2 zoo isolates. Four toxigenic ribotypes were identified, with one that possessed tcdB and cdtA predominating. None of the toxigenic isolates were ribotypes that have been identified previously by the authors. There was no overlap in toxigenic ribotypes between the different populations. Clostridium difficile was not uncommonly identified in polar bears, with differences in type distribution amongst the different regions. The presence of strains that have not been identified in humans or domestic animals suggests that polar bears may be a natural reservoir of unique strains of this important bacterium.


Clostridium difficile,Microbiota,Polar bear,Ursus maritimus,Wildlife,Zoonotic,

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