Clostridioides difficile infection induces a rapid influx of bile acids into the gut during colonization of the host.


Clostridioides difficile is the leading cause of nosocomial intestinal infections in the United States. Ingested C. difficile spores encounter host bile acids and other cues that are necessary for germinating into toxin-producing vegetative cells. While gut microbiota disruption (often by antibiotics) is a prerequisite for C. difficile infection (CDI), the mechanisms C. difficile employs for colonization remain unclear. Here, we pioneered the application of imaging mass spectrometry to study how enteric infection changes gut metabolites. We find that CDI induces an influx of bile acids into the gut within 24 h of the host ingesting spores. In response, the host reduces bile acid biosynthesis gene expression. These bile acids drive C. difficile outgrowth, as mice receiving the bile acid sequestrant cholestyramine display delayed colonization and reduced germination. Our findings indicate that C. difficile may facilitate germination upon infection and suggest that altering flux through bile acid pathways can modulate C. difficile outgrowth in CDI-prone patients.