Clostridium difficile colonisation in veal calves

Abstract number: P2041

Costa M., Arroyo L., Staempfli H., Weese J.S.

Objectives: There is increasing concern that C. difficile may be a zoonotic pathogen, and that food may be a source of infection. While C. difficile can be found in retail beef and veal, there is very little information available about C. difficile colonisation in cattle. The objective of this study was to longitudinally monitor C. difficile colonisation in veal calves.

Methods: 163 male Holstein-Friesen calves on one farm were enrolled. Calves were approximately 2 weeks of age at arrival, came from several different farms and were housed either individually or in groups in two separate pens. Calves are managed in an all-in/all-out system and treated with oral oxytetracycline after arrival. Faecal samples were obtained on day 1 or 2 after arrival and 6 days later. Further sampling is ongoing. Selective culture for C. difficile was performed, and isolates were characterised using standard methods.

Results:C. difficile was isolated from 22/70 (34%) individually housed calves at the first sampling period and 42/69 (61%) 6 days later (Pfts;< 0.001). Similarly, C. difficile was isolated from 31/93 (33%) group housed calves initially and 46/93 (49%) later (P = 0.037). Overall, C. difficile was isolated from 53/193 (33%) calves initially and 88/162 (54%) 6 days later. There was no difference in the prevalence of colonisation between management types at either sampling point (P = 0.87 and 0.16 respectively). 14 of the 31 (45%) group housed calves that were positive initially were negative on the 2nd sample, as were 7 (32%) of the initially-positive individually housed calves. Virtually all calves had some degree of diarrhoea at the time of the second sampling, which is typical for this farm. The role of C. difficile in diarrhoea was not evaluated because of the high overall prevalence of diarrhoea.

Conclusions: The colonisation rate of veal calves in this study was high, even at the first sampling time and increased significantly shortly after arrival. The significant increase was not surprising and various factors, including stress of transportation, diet change, environmental exposure and antimicrobial administration, could be involved. Homogenous management of calves, including antimicrobial therapy, precludes evaluation of factors associated with colonisation. Further study of these calves through their lifetime on the farm and evaluation of typing data will provide additional insight into the epidemiology of C. difficile in veal calves.

Session Details

Date: 16/05/2009
Time: 00:00-00:00
Session name: 19th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Location: Helsinki, Finland, 16 - 19 May 2009
Presentation type:
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