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Immunogenicity and protective efficacy of recombinant Clostridium difficile flagellar protein FliC

Ghose, C;Eugenis, I;Sun, X;Edwards, AN;McBride, SM;Pride, DT;Kelly, CP;Ho, DD;

Clostridium difficile is a Gram-positive bacillus and is the leading cause of toxin-mediated nosocomial diarrhea following antibiotic use. C. difficile flagella play a role in colonization, adherence, biofilm formation, and toxin production, which might contribute to the overall virulence of certain strains. Human and animal studies indicate that anti-flagella immune responses may play a role in protection against colonization by C. difficile and subsequent disease outcome. Here we report that recombinant C. difficile flagellin (FliC) is immunogenic and protective in a murine model of C. difficile infection (CDI) against a clinical C. difficile strain, UK1. Passive protection experiments using anti-FliC polyclonal serum in mice suggest this protection to be antibody-mediated. FliC immunization also was able to afford partial protection against CDI and death in hamsters following challenge with C. difficile 630erm. Additionally, immunization against FliC does not have an adverse effect on the normal gut flora of vaccinated hamsters as evidenced by comparing the fecal microbiome of vaccinated and control hamsters. Therefore, the use of FliC as a vaccine candidate against CDI warrants further testing.