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Research article2012Peer reviewedOpen access

Toxigenic Clostridium difficile PCR Ribotypes from Wastewater Treatment Plants in Southern Switzerland

Romano, Vincenza; Pasquale, Vincenzo; Krovacek, Karel; Mauri, Federica; Demarta, Antonella; Dumontet, Stefano


The occurrence of Clostridium difficile in nine wastewater treatment plants in the Ticino Canton (southern Switzerland) was investigated. The samples were collected from raw sewage influents and from treated effluents. Forty-seven out of 55 characterized C. difficile strains belonged to 13 different reference PCR ribotypes (009, 010, 014, 015, 039, 052, 053, 066, 070, 078, 101, 106, and 117), whereas 8 strains did not match any of those available in our libraries. The most frequently isolated ribotype (40%) was 078, isolated from six wastewater treatment plants, whereas ribotype 066, a toxigenic emerging ribotype isolated from patients admitted to hospitals in Europe and Switzerland, was isolated from the outgoing effluent of one plant. The majority of the isolates (85%) were toxigenic. Forty-nine percent of them produced toxin A, toxin B, and the binary toxin (toxigenic profile A(+) B+ CDT+), whereas 51% showed the profile A(+) B+ CDT-. Interestingly, eight ribotypes (010, 014, 015, 039, 066, 078, 101, and 106) were among the riboprofiles isolated from symptomatic patients admitted to the hospitals of the Ticino Canton in 2010. Despite the limitation of sampling, this study highlights that toxigenic ribotypes of C. difficile involved in human infections may occur in both incoming and outgoing biological wastewater treatment plants. Such a finding raises concern about the possible contamination of water bodies that receive wastewater treatment plant effluents and about the safe reuse of treated wastewater.

Published in

Applied and Environmental Microbiology
2012, Volume: 78, number: 18, pages: 6643-6646

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG3 Good health and well-being
    SDG6 Clean water and sanitation
    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

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