Outbreak of murine infection with Clostridium difficile associated with the administration of a pre- and peri-natal methyl-donor diet.


Between October 2016 and June 2017, a C57BL/6J mouse colony that was undergoing a pre- and perinatal methyl donor supplementation diet intervention to study the impact of parental nutrition on offspring susceptibility to disease was found to suffer from an epizootic of unexpected deaths. Necropsy revealed the presence of severe colitis, and further investigation linked these outbreak deaths to a Clostridium difficile strain of ribotype 027 that we term 16N203. C. difficile infection (CDI) is associated with antibiotic use in humans. Current murine models of CDI rely on antibiotic pretreatment to establish clinical phenotypes. In this report, the C. difficile outbreak occurs in F1 mice linked to alterations in the parental diet. The diagnosis of CDI in the affected mice was confirmed by cecal/colonic histopathology, the presence of C. difficile bacteria in fecal/colonic culture, and detection of C. difficile toxins. F1 mice from parents fed the methyl supplementation diet also had significantly reduced survival (P 0.0001) compared with F1 mice from parents fed the control diet. When we tested the 16N203 outbreak strain in an established mouse model of antibiotic-induced CDI, we confirmed that this strain is pathogenic. Our serendipitous observations from this spontaneous outbreak of C. difficile in association with a pre- and perinatal methyl donor diet suggest the important role that diet may play in host defense and CDI risk factors.