Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) is a major healthcare-associated diarrheal disease. Consistent with trends across the United States, C. difficile RT106 was the second-most prevalent molecular type in our surveillance in Arizona from 2015 to 2018. A representative RT106 strain displayed robust virulence and 100% lethality in the hamster model of acute CDI. We identified a unique 46 KB genomic island (GI1) in all RT106 strains sequenced to date, including those in public databases. GI1 was not found in its entirety in any other C. difficile clade, or indeed, in any other microbial genome; however, smaller segments were detected in Enterococcus faecium strains. Molecular clock analyses suggested that GI1 was horizontally acquired and sequentially assembled over time. GI1 encodes homologs of VanZ and a SrtB-anchored collagen-binding adhesin, and correspondingly, all tested RT106 strains had increased teicoplanin resistance, and a majority displayed collagen-dependent biofilm formation. Two additional genomic islands (GI2 and GI3) were also present in a subset of RT106 strains. All three islands are predicted to encode mobile genetic elements as well as virulence factors. Emergent phenotypes associated with these genetic islands may have contributed to the relatively rapid expansion of RT106 in US healthcare and community settings.
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