Prevalence of clostridium difficile toxin genes in the feces of veal calves and incidence of ground veal contamination

Beth A. Houser, Marty K. Soehnlen, David R. Wolfgang, Hannah R. Lysczek, Carol M. Burns, Bhushan M. Jayarao

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43 Scopus citations


A study was conducted in two parts to determine the prevalence of toxigenic Clostridium difficile in veal calves and retail meat. The first part of the study focused on the veal production continuum (farm to abattoir). Fifty calves from 4 veal herds (n=200) were followed for 18-22 weeks from the time of arrival on the veal farm to the time of slaughter. Fecal samples were collected from calves every 4-6 weeks. Half of the calves included in the study (n=100) were followed to the abattoir where carcass swabs were collected post slaughter. Fecal samples and carcass swabs were screened for genes encoding C. difficile toxins TcdA, TcdB, and CDT by using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Carcass swabs were also screened for toxigenic C. difficile by using traditional culture methods. In the second part of the study, ground veal products (n=50 samples) purchased from local grocery stores were examined for toxigenic C. difficile by using real-time PCR and traditional culture methods. Fecal samples from 56 of 200 (28%) calves tested positive for C. difficile toxin genes at least once over the course of the study. Calf age (p=0.011) influenced prevalence of C. difficile toxin genes in calf feces. Toxin genes of C. difficile were detected in one carcass swab by multiplex real-time PCR only. Toxigenic C. difficile was detected by PCR and culture in four (8%) and three (6%) ground veal samples, respectively. The findings of the study reveal that toxigenic C. difficile was most prevalent in veal calves (12%) just before slaughter, although viable toxigenic C. difficile was not recovered from veal carcasses. On the contrary, viable toxigenic C. difficle was recovered from 6% retail meat, thus suggesting that contamination occurs either during or after veal fabrication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-36
Number of pages5
JournalFoodborne pathogens and disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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