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Dysregulated Immunity to Clostridioides difficile in IBD Patients Without a History of Recognized Infection

Cook, L;Wong, MQ;Rees, WD;Schick, A;Lisko, DJ;Lunken, GR;Wang, X;Peters, H;Oliveira, L;Lau, T;Mah, R;Bressler, B;Levings, MK;Steiner, TS;

Clostridioides difficile is a toxin-secreting bacteria that is an urgent antimicrobial resistance threat, with approximately 25% of patients developing recurrent infections. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients are at increased risk of severe, recurrent C. difficile infection.To investigate a role for C. difficile infection in IBD pathogenesis, we collected peripheral blood and stool from 20 each of ulcerative colitis patients, Crohn’s disease patients, and healthy control subjects. We used a flow cytometric activation induced marker assay to quantify C. difficile toxin-specific CD4+ T cells and 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing to study microbiome diversity.We found IBD patients had significantly increased levels of C. difficile toxin B-specific CD4+ T cells, but not immunoglobulin G or immunoglobulin A, compared with healthy control subjects. Within antigen-specific CD4+ T cells, T helper type 17 cells and cells expressing the gut homing receptor integrin ?7 were reduced compared with healthy control subjects, similar to our previous study of non-IBD patients with recurrent C. difficile infection. Stool microbiome analysis revealed that gut homing, toxin-specific CD4+ T cells negatively associated with microbial diversity and, along with T helper type 17 cells, positively associated with bacteria enriched in healthy control subjects.These data suggest that IBD patients, potentially due to underlying intestinal dysbiosis, experience undiagnosed C. difficile infections that result in impaired toxin-specific immunity. This may contribute to the development of inflammatory T cell responses toward commensal bacteria and provide a rationale for C. difficile testing in IBD patients.