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The Physiological Basis of Hypervirulence in Clostridium difficile: a Prerequisite for Effective Infection Control
EC contribution
: € 2992181
: 36 months
Starting date
: 1/11/2008
Funding scheme
: Focused research project
: Clostridium difficile, hypervirulence, epidemiology, physiology, healthcare associated infection, prevention, vaccine
Contract/Grant agreement number
: 223585
Project web-site


Clostridium diffficile is currently wreaking havoc within European health systems due to the emergence of hypervirulent strains (eg., ribotype 027), responsible for more severe disease, higher relapse rates, increased mortality and greater resistance to antibiotics. However, the physiological basis of hypervirulence is poorly understood due to an absence of mutational tools for functional genomic studies. The development of the revolutionary ClosTron technology by the University of Nottingham allows systematic inactivation of genes to assess the effects on virulence. Identification of the determinants that are required for infection and disease progression will permit the development of more rational countermeasures against C. difficile.


Since the turn of the new millennium there has been a dramatic rise in the incidence of C. difficile. It is currently the most frequently occurring healthcare associated infection (HAI), killing over seven times as many people in the UK as MRSA in 2007. A number of reasons have been suggested for this increase, ranging from improvements in reporting procedures, the increasing age of the population and therefore the number at risk, lower standards of hygiene and overcrowding in hospitals. A further significant factor has been the emergence of so-called hypervirulent strains, typified by ribotype 027.

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