Clostridioides difficile whole-genome sequencing reveals limited within-host genetic diversity in a pediatric cohort

Aakash Balaji, Egon A. Ozer, Larry K. Kociolek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) is a highly sensitive method for identifying genetic relatedness and transmission of Clostridioides difficile strains. Previous studies suggest that as few as 3 core genome single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) discriminate between genetically distinct isolates. Because a single C. difficile colony is selected from culture for WGS, significant within-host genetic diversity could preclude identification of transmission events. To evaluate the likelihood of missed transmission events using WGS of single colonies from culture, we examined within-host genetic diversity among C. difficile isolates collected from children. We performed WGS using an Illumina MiSeq instrument on 8 C. difficile colonies randomly selected from each culture performed on stool collected from 10 children (8 children diagnosed with C. difficile infection and 2 children with asymptomatic carriage); 77/80 (96%) isolate sequences were successfully assembled. Among 8/10 (80%) children, all isolates were the same sequence type (ST). The other 2 children each had mixed infection with two STs, although one ST predominated. Among 9/10 (90%) children, isotypic isolates differed by ≤2 SNVs; an isotypic isolate in the remaining child differed by 3 to SNVs relative to the other isolates from that child. Overall, among the 77 isolates collected from 10 stool cultures, 74/77 (96%) were clonal (i.e., same ST and ≤2 core genome SNVs) to other isolates in stool culture. In summary, we identified rare C. difficile within-host genetic diversity in children, suggesting that WGS of a single colony from stool is likely to appropriately characterize isolate clonality and putative transmission events in the majority of cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00559-19
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2019


  • Clostridium difficile
  • Genomics
  • Pediatrics
  • Transmission
  • Whole-genome sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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