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Research project aims to reduce one of Australia’s most common hospital acquired infection - Clostridioides difficile diarrhoea.

29 November 2021 | 2 MINS


Professor Thomas Riley and his research team have recently been awarded over $1.2 million to tackle on one of the most common hospital acquired infections in high-income countries - Clostridioides difficile diarrhoea.

Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile) is an antibiotic-resistant bacterium that infects over 8,500 Australians each year. Diarrhoea caused by C. difficile infection (CDI) can progress to irreversible damage to the colon that could lead to a fatality rate of 7%, or over 600 deaths. Unfortunately, the sources of C. difficile increasingly causing community infections are unknown.

Based on their extensive investigations of CDI in Australia, Professor Riley and his research team found broad, complex dissemination pathways of C. difficile between humans, animals and the environment. They hypothesise that a significant proportion of CDI arises from food and household contamination from zoonotic sources, hallmarks of a “One Health” aetiology. Their genomic analyses have identified long-distance interspecies transmission of C. difficile between pigs and humans, and clonal relationships between clinical C. difficile strains and strains isolated from locally sourced root vegetables, gardens and shoes.

With collaborators in Queensland, the group propose a mixed methods study to develop a System Dynamics model of the multiplication and transfer of C. difficile within and between different systems (animal, environmental and human) and the behavioural and economic processes that impact on this transfer. The model will incorporate human CDI case numbers (community- and hospital-identified) from WA and QLD over 6 years and systematic testing of environmental, animal and food samples. Once tested and verified, the model will be used to identify key interventions to reduce the incidence of human CDI, and assessed for economic implications of the key interventions.

In 10 years, we hope an intervention will have been identified and trialled, successfully, and human cases of CDI will have reduced. Losses of production animals due to C. difficile will also be reduced” Professor Thomas Riley

tom riley headshot


The project is funded by National Health and Medical Research Council IDEAS Grants for the next 4 years.

 Find out more about the Marshall Centre Research Programs.


Hannah Vu, Marketing Officer, 08 6457 4815

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