High prevalence of Clostridium difficile on retail root vegetables, Western Australia

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Applied Microbiology


Blackwell Publishing Ltd


School of Medical and Health Sciences




Lim, S. C., Foster, N. F., Elliott, B., & Riley, T. V. (2018). High prevalence of Clostridium difficile on retail root vegetables, Western Australia. Journal of applied microbiology, 124(2), 585-590. Available here.



The incidence of community-associated Clostridium difficile infection (CA-CDI) in Australia has increased since mid-2011. With reports of clinically important C. difficile strains being isolated from retail foods in Europe and North America, a foodborne source of C. difficile in cases of CA-CDI is a possibility. This study represents the first to investigate the prevalence and genotypes of C. difficile in Australian retail vegetables.

Methods and Results

A total of 300 root vegetables grown in Western Australia (WA) were collected from retail stores and farmers’ markets. Three vegetables of the same kind bought from the same store/market were treated as one sample. Selective enrichment culture, toxin profiling and PCR ribotyping were performed. Clostridium difficile was isolated from 30% (30/100) of pooled vegetable samples, 55·6% of organic potatoes, 50% of nonorganic potatoes, 22·2% of organic beetroots, 5·6% of organic onions and 5·3% of organic carrots. Over half (51·2%, 22/43) the isolates were toxigenic. Many of the ribotypes of C. difficile isolated were common among human and Australian animals.


Clostridium difficile could be found commonly on retail root vegetables of WA. This may be potential sources for CA-CDI.

Significance and Impact of the Study

This study enhances knowledge of possible sources of C. difficile in the Australian community, outside the hospital setting.



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