The comparative pathology of Clostridium difficile-associated disease

Michael K Keel, J. G. Songer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Clostridium difficile is a confirmed pathogen in a wide variety of mammals, but the incidence of disease varies greatly in relation to host species, age, environmental density of spores, administration of antibiotics, and possibly, other factors. Lesions vary as well, in severity and distribution within individuals, and in some instances, age groups, of a given species. The cecum and colon are principally affected in most species, but foals and rabbits develop severe jejunal lesions. Explanations for variable susceptibility of species, and age groups within a species, are largely speculative. Differences in colonization rates and toxin-receptor densities have been proposed. Clostridium difficile-associated disease is most commonly diagnosed in Syrian hamsters, horses, and neonatal pigs, but it is reported sporadically in many other species. The essential virulence factors of C. difficile are large exotoxins, toxin A (TcdA) and toxin B (TcdB). Receptor-mediated endocytosis of the toxins is followed by endosomal acidification, a necessary step for conversion of the toxin to its active form in the cytosol. Cell-surface receptors have been characterized for TcdA, but remain to be identified for TcdB. Both TcdA and TcdB disrupt the actin cytoskeleton by disrupting Rho-subtype, intracellular signaling molecules. Disruption of the actin cytoskeleton is catastrophic for cellular function, but inflammation and neurogenic stimuli are also involved in the pathogenesis of the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-240
Number of pages16
JournalVeterinary Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  • Clostridium difficile
  • Colitis
  • Enteritis
  • Exotoxin
  • TcdA
  • TcdB
  • Typhlocolitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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