Gastrointestinal Disorders

Researchers Discover How C. difficile Disrupts the Gut

Researchers have a new understanding of the location and timing of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) colonization and have identified possibilities for new therapeutic strategies, according to a recent study.

For their study, researchers examined the gut reactions of mice after introducing C. difficile spores orally. Gut samples were taken at regular intervals and evaluated under special conditions. 1,2

According to researchers, all of the animals received antibiotics prior to exposure.1

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The study showed investigators that after a 24-hour period, bile acids stimulated the dormant, bacterial spores—that had transformed from hard spores to toxic, diarrhea producing cells—causing them to proliferate in the small intestine. 1,2

Since antibiotics disturbed the gut’s typical bacterial community, C. difficile cells were able to directly affect the ells that line the gut. The C. difficile cells then formed more spores in the large intestine, surviving after exiting the body in feces.  

“Now that we understand what C. difficile is doing, we can also go and ask more questions about how the machinery inside the cell is turning on,” said Mark Koenigsknect, PhD, an author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at U-M College of Pharmacy.1

“We have to know how to study it before we can cure it,” he said. 1

The complete study is published in the February issue of Infection and Immunity.

-Michelle Canales Butcher


1. University of Michigan. Stalking a wily foe: U-M scientists figure out how C. difficile bacteria wreak havoc in the gut. December 18, 2015. Accessed February 23, 2015.

2. Koenigsknecht MJ, Theriot CM, Bergin IL, et al. Dynamics and establishment of Clostridium difficile infection in the murine gastrointestinal tract. Infect Immun. 2015 February [epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1128/IAI.02768-14.