C. difficile is a spore-forming bacterium that is the major cause of infectious diarrhoea in hospitalised patients, particularly older people or those with a compromised immune system. C. difficile spores can be passed out in faeces and may be able to survive for several months on objects and surfaces in the surrounding environment. This organism can also cause disease when a person’s normal gut flora is disrupted such as may result from antibiotic treatment. Infection can lead to very severe inflammation of the bowel (pseudomembranous colitis) which can be life-threatening.
Most strains of C.difficile produce toxins (bacterial proteins) and the two major toxins associated with infection are referred to as toxin A and toxin B. Their respective roles in causing C. difficile infection remain unclear. Different strains of C. difficile produce slightly different toxin A and B proteins, and those are referred to as toxinotypes.
PHE’s National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC) provides strains of C. difficile as control strains for diagnostic testing and for research projects. NCTC 13366 (also known as R20291) is particularly well characterised and produces both toxin A and B.
PHE is also able to provide a range of purified C. difficile toxinotypes to help researchers better understand the role and effects of the toxins in causing disease or to support the development of new diagnostic assays or vaccines. C. difficile toxins are some of the largest bacterial toxins known and such large proteins can be challenging to purify.
The PHE team that is able to purify these toxins needs feedback from researchers working in this important field about the value of the products they provide.
If you are interested in purified C. difficile toxins please would you help our development programme by completing the online survey – it should take you no more than 5 minutes.
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