Clin Microbiol Infect 2011; 17: 166–175
Clostridium difficile infection is most often induced by antibiotic treatment. Recently, morbidity and mortality resulting especially from C. difficile PCR ribotype 027 have increased significantly. In addition, more severe disease has been associated with C. difficile PCR ribotype 078 strains. Thus, reliable typing methods for epidemic control are needed. In the present study, we compared an automated repetitive extragenic palindromic sequence-based PCR (rep-PCR) method (DiversiLab; Bacterial Barcodes, Inc., Athens, GA, USA) to PCR ribotyping and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) typing using 205 isolates of C. difficile (including 24 previously characterized isolates). Among the 181 clinical isolates, a total of 31 different PCR ribotypes, 38 different PFGE types and subtypes and 28 different rep-PCR types were found. Six major rep-PCR groups (DL1–DL6) harboured 86% of the clinical isolates. All isolates belonging to PCR ribotypes 027 and 001 clustered in their own rep-PCR groups, enabling us to screen out the hypervirulent ribotype 027 strain. Within the PCR ribotype 001, four subgroups were found using rep-PCR. Overall, in 75% (135/181) of the isolates, the classification attributed following rep-PCR and PCR ribotyping was comparable. In conclusion, the automated rep-PCR-based typing method represents an option for first-line molecular typing in local clinical microbiology laboratories. The method was easy to use as well as rapid, requiring less hands-on time than PCR ribotyping or PFGE typing. The conventional PCR ribotyping or PFGE, however, are needed for confirmatory molecular epidemiology. In addition, more epidemiology-oriented studies are needed to examine the discriminatory power of automated rep-PCR with isolates collected from a larger geographical area and during a longer period of time.