Back to R&D main

An investigation of Clostridium difficile carriage on Australian bobby calf carcases

Project start date: 03 December 2012
Project end date: 06 May 2014
Publication date: 23 October 2014
Livestock species: Sheep, Goat, Lamb, Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
Download Report (0.6 MB)


C. difficile is a ubiquitous, spore forming, Gram positive anaerobe, the leading cause of antimicrobial and health care-associated diarrhoea in humans. C. difficile infection (CDI) is a significant economic burden to global health care systems and an increasing problem in the community. C. difficile is also a recognized enteric pathogen in a variety of animals including companion animals (cats, dogs, horses) and food animals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs). In Australia, C. difficile has been isolated from piglets, sheep, lambs, horses, cats, dogs, and cattle, with the highest prevalence in neonatal animals due to a lack of established gut flora at birth. Contamination during slaughter occurs when faecal bacteria from the gut or hide are deposited on the carcase. Environmental contamination may also play a role as C. difficile spores survive in treated piggery effluent, the by-products of which may be applied to agricultural land, used in retail compost manufacture, or recycled within the swine facility.
MLA has previously completed 3 studies (A.MFS.0124, A.MFS.0157 and A.MFS.0254) on the prevalence of C. difficile in cattle, the objectives of this project was to: 1. Undertake a survey of Australian bobby calves (faecal samples and carcase swabs) for C. difficile at processing plants at three sites in two States. 2. Determine the prevalence of viable C. difficile spores and vegetative cells in faeces and on carcases. 3. Determine the concentration of viable spores and vegetative cells in faeces and on carcases. 4. Type C. difficile isolates recovered and investigate possible alignment with human isolates in Australia. 5. Assess any risk of food-borne transmission of C. difficile from contamination.

More information

Project manager: Ian Jenson
Primary researcher: Pathwest Laboratory Medicine WA