Faculty Member

Animals such as domestic dogs and zoo animals reside in close proximity to humans and could contribute to the dissemination of Clostridioides difficile spores which are common in the community environment. The purpose of this study was to assess C. difficile colonization in domestic dogs attending a day boarding facility and zoo animals receiving systemic antibiotics. Stool samples and paw swabs were collected from dogs who attended a day boarding facility. Stool samples were also collected from zoo animals starting systemic antibiotics. Finally, environmental samples were collected from nearby public parks. Stool samples and swabs were incubated anaerobically in enrichment broth for C. difficile growth, PCR was done to confirm presence of toxin genes, and PCR ribotyping was performed for strain characterization. During the study period, 136 dog stool samples were obtained, the paws of 16 dogs were swabbed, and 250 environmental swabs from surrounding public parks were obtained. Twenty-three of 136 dog stool samples (17%) and 9 of 16 dog paws sampled (56%) grew toxigenic C. difficile. One hundred and four stool samples from 49 zoo animals were collected of which 19 (18%) grew toxigenic C. difficile. Rates of toxigenic C. difficile colonization increased significantly during antibiotic therapy (33%) and then returned to baseline during the follow-up (11%) period (p = 0.019). Fifty-five of 250 environmental swabs from public parks (22%) grew toxigenic C. difficile. Ribotypes associated with human disease including 106 and 014-020 were isolated from all sources. This study demonstrated a high rate of toxigenic C. difficile colonization in domestic dogs and zoo animals with ribotypes similar to those causing human disease. These results demonstrate the relationship between humans, animals, and the environment in the dissemination of spores.