Clostridium difficile is an anaerobic bacterium commonly considered to be responsible for antibioticassociated gastrointestinal diseases, ranging from diarrhea of varying severity to pseudomembranous colitis. The aim of this study was to assess the occurrence of C. difficile in marine edible bivalve molluscs, which, as filter feeding organisms, are able to accumulate particles suspended in water, including microorganisms. Samples of Mytilus galloprovincialis, Tapes philippinarum, and Venus verrucosa were collected from mussel farms and fishmongers in the province of Naples (Southern Italy). C. difficile was found in 49% of the 53 samples investigated. Sixteen isolates were grouped in 12 known different PCR ribotypes (001, 002, 003, 010, 012, 014/020, 018, 045, 070, 078, 106, and 126), whereas 10 additional isolates were grouped in 8 new PCR riboprofiles. Two toxinotypes (0 and V) were found. Fifty eight percent of the isolates were toxigenic. These findings indicate that toxigenic C. difficile strains can be isolated in bivalve molluscs. Marine filter feeding organisms, therefore, may be considered as reservoir of toxigenic strains of C. difficile. The ingestion of raw or poorly cooked contaminated seafood and the high temperature resistance of the spore-forming C. difficile could represent an important source of exposure and pose human health concern.
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