Clostridium difficile: Infection and Immunity

Patima Permpoonpattana

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Clostridium difficile is a Gram positive pathogen of significant importance in the UK, Europe and the USA. No vaccine has been developed and current treatments are focused on hospital management and the use of antibiotics. The disease is spread in hospitals in the spore form and the role of spores in C. difficile infecton is poorly understood. In this project spores of C. difficile have been characterised. The proteins from the outermost layers of the spore were identified and the genes cloned. Three of these surface proteins have unique enzymatic properties that maybe important for symptoms of disease. The ability of C. difficile spores to adhere to intestinal cells was found to be far greater than with live cells and through this we have identified that the spore may play an important role in colonisation. The regulation of spore coat gene expression during sporulation was also examined and temporal phases of genes expression identified. A major part of this project was to develop a mucosal vaccine to C. difficile. The approach used was to clone the C-terminus of toxin A onto the surface of Bacillus subtilis spores and use these recombinant spores to immunise mice and hamsters. We found that oral delivery of these spores conferred 75% protection to C. difficile infection in a hamster model of infection. Further, parenteral immunisation of the same antigens (toxin A and B) failed to generate mucosal responses and this showed that mucosal immunisation is critical for good protection. Finally, we found that antibodies to the C-terminus of toxin A were cross reactive to the C-terminus of toxin B. This showed that mucosal delivery of just the C-terminus of toxin A is sufficient to confer protection in an animal model of infection. The outcome of this work is that we have shown the parameters for successful immunisation and vaccination against C. difficile.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Cutting, Simon, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Feb 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


  • Clostridium difficile
  • Bacillus subtilis spores
  • mucosal immunity
  • Spore coat proteins
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • oral vaccine

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