McGill forging ahead with research into C. difficile


Two McGill researchers aim to sequence eight isolates of the bacterium in 18 months

Dr. Ken Dewar, assistant professor of human genetics at McGill University and investigator with the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), and Dr. André Dascal, associate professor of medicine at McGill and infectious disease physician at the Jewish General Hospital, will be continuing their intensive research into Clostridium difficile, with $400,000 in financial support from Génome Québec and Genome Canada. The announcement was made during a press conference on December 20 by the Federal Minister of Industry, Maxime Bernier.

This new, large-scale research project will focus on the complete sequencing of eight isolates of C. difficile. Dr. Dewar and his team will evaluate the genetic diversity of each strain and compare them to each other. They will also establish the repertoire of genes and proteins and seek to understand the mechanism that increases virulence or antibiotic resistance.

"The results targeted by this new study will provide basic data for other Canadian and international researchers, with the goal of developing the most effective tests to detect and diagnose C. difficile," explained Dr. Dewar. "In applied genomic research, each completed stage serves as a foundation for subsequent efforts to develop the best tools and strategies to fight the disease."

McGill and Clostridium difficile
Dr. Dewar's new research project continues the efforts made by McGill and its affiliated teaching hospitals in trying to understand the evolution and progression of the virulence of C. difficile. Through the combined efforts of such distinguished researchers as Dr. Vivian Loo, Dr. André Dascal and Dr. Sandra Dial, McGill has succeeded in identifying a highly virulent strain of C. difficile, breaking the genetic code for C. difficile in Quebec, performing the first sequencing in North America for a strain of C. difficile, and establishing and confirming the link between the use of medications to reduce gastric acidity and creation of an environment conducive to colonization by the bacteria in the community, i.e., outside the hospital setting.

All of the research at McGill is aimed at improving treatment and preventive methods as well as speeding up the development of diagnostic methods, reducing the spread of the bacteria and developing strategies for controlling the infection.

Contact Information

Céline Poissant
McGill University
celine.poissant [at]
Office Phone: