Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) is a major cause of healthcare-associated diarrhea, despite the widespread implementation of contact precautions for patients with CDI. Here, we investigate strain contamination in a hospital setting and the genomic determinants of disease outcomes. Across two wards over 6 months, we selectively cultured C. difficile from patients (n = 384) and their environments. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of 146 isolates revealed that most C. difficile isolates were from clade 1 (131/146, 89.7%), while only one isolate of the hypervirulent ST1 was recovered. Of culture-positive admissions (n = 79), 19 (24%) patients were colonized with toxigenic C. difficile on admission to the hospital. We defined 25 strain networks at ≤2 core gene single nucleotide polymorphisms; two of these networks contain strains from different patients. Strain networks were temporally linked (P < 0.0001). To understand the genomic correlates of the disease, we conducted WGS on an additional cohort of C. difficile (n = 102 isolates) from the same hospital and confirmed that clade 1 isolates are responsible for most CDI cases. We found that while toxigenic C. difficile isolates are associated with the presence of cdtR, nontoxigenic isolates have an increased abundance of prophages. Our pangenomic analysis of clade 1 isolates suggests that while toxin genes (tcdABER and cdtR) were associated with CDI symptoms, they are dispensable for patient colonization. These data indicate that toxigenic and nontoxigenic C. difficile contamination persist in a hospital setting and highlight further investigation into how accessory genomic repertoires contribute to C. difficile colonization and disease. IMPORTANCE Clostridioides difficile infection remains a leading cause of hospital-associated diarrhea, despite increased antibiotic stewardship and transmission prevention strategies. This suggests a changing genomic landscape of C. difficile. Our study provides insight into the nature of prevalent C. difficile strains in a hospital setting and transmission patterns among carriers. Longitudinal sampling of surfaces and patient stool revealed that both toxigenic and nontoxigenic strains of C. difficile clade 1 dominate these two wards. Moreover, quantification of transmission in carriers of these clade 1 isolates underscores the need to revisit infection prevention measures in this patient group. We identified unique genetic signatures associated with virulence in this clade. Our data highlight the complexities of preventing transmission of this pathogen in a hospital setting and the need to investigate the mechanisms of in vivo persistence and virulence of prevalent lineages in the host gut microbiome.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • C. difficile infection
  • antibiotic resistance
  • pathogens
  • transmission
  • virulence factors
  • whole-genome sequencing


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