Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Immunity and Metabolism, Laboratory of Infection and Immunity, Department of Pathogenic Biology and Immunology/School of Stomatology, Xuzhou Medical University, Xuzhou, 22104, Jiangsu Province, China. [Email]
BACKGROUND : Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is a main cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in humans. Several studies have been performed to reveal the prevalence rate of C. difficile in cats and dogs. However, little is known about the epidemiology of C. difficile in healthy pets in China. This study aimed to assess the burden of C. difficile shedding by healthy dogs and cats in China. Furthermore, the genetic diversity and antimicrobial susceptibility patterns of the recovered isolates were determined. METHODS : A total of 175 faecal samples were collected from 146 healthy dogs and 29 cats. C. difficile strains were isolated and identified from the feces of these pets. The characterized C. difficile strains were typed by multilocus sequence typing (MLST), and the MICs of the isolates were determined against ampicillin, clindamycin, tetracycline, moxifloxacin, chloramphenicol, cefoxitin, metronidazole and vancomycin by the agar dilution method. RESULTS : Overall, 3 faecal samples (1.7%) were C. difficile culture positive. One sample (0.7%) from a dog was C. difficile culture positive, while two cats (7.0%) yielded positive cultures. The prevalence rate differed significantly between cats and dogs. These isolates were typed into 3 MLST genotypes and were susceptible to chloramphenicol, tetracycline, metronidazole and moxifloxacin and resistant to ampicillin, clindamycin and cefoxitin. Notably, one strain, D141-1, which was resistant to three kinds of antibiotics and carried toxin genes, was recovered in the faeces of a healthy dog. CONCLUSIONS : Our results suggest that common pets may be a source of pathogenic C. difficile, indicating that household transmission of C. difficile from pets to humans can not be excluded.