School of Medical and Health Sciences
Clostridium difficile associated disease is fundamentally associated with dysbiosis of the gut microbiome as a consequence of antibiotic use. This is because this sporulating, obligate anaerobe germinates and proliferates rapidly in the dysbiotic gut, which is an indirect consequence of their use. During its growth, C. difficile produces two toxins, toxin A (TcdA) and toxin B (TcdB), which are responsible for the majority of clinical symptoms associated with the disease. Three parenterally delivered vaccines, based on detoxified or recombinant forms of these toxins, have undergone or are undergoing clinical trials. Each offers the opportunity to generate high titres of toxin neutralising antibodies. Whilst these data suggest these vaccines may reduce primary symptomatic disease, they do not in their current form reduce the capacity of the organism to persist and shed from the vaccinated host. The current progress of vaccine development is considered with advantages and limitations of each highlighted. In addition, several alternative approaches are described that seek to limit C. difficile germination, colonisation and persistence. It may yet prove that the most effective treatments to limit infection, disease and spread of the organism will require a combination of therapeutic approaches. The potential use and efficacy of these vaccines in low and middle income countries will be depend on the development of a cost effective vaccine and greater understanding of the distribution and extent of disease in these countries.
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