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Infectious Disease Online

Pathology of Clostridium Perfringens

(Food Poisoning)

Dr Sampurna Roy MD





Clostridium perfringens has five serotypes (A-E), based on the combinations of antigens.


Type A and C produce a toxin, alfa-enterotoxin, that causes food poisoning.


Clostridium perfringens is the most widely disseminated of all pathogenic bacteria, typically being 10 to 100 times more numerous than E. coli in stool.


Type A serotype is the only one commonly found in the colonic flora of animals and humans.


It is also omnipresent in the environment, contaminating soil, water and air samples, clothing, dust, and meat.


Food poisoning from Clostridium perfringens occurs throughout the world.

Most of the food poisoning is from contaminated beef, gravy, and other meat products.

For example, a large piece of meat that is slowly cooling often has an internal temperature in the range of 43 to 47C optimal for the growth of Clostridium perfringens.

Heating the meat drives out enough air to make it anaerobic, a condition that is conducive to growth but not to sporulation. 

Thus the contaminated meat contains the vegetative clostridia, but little preformed enterotoxin.

This contrasts with the situation in botulism, in which preformed neurotoxin of Clostridium botulinum is ingested. 

Visit related post Botulism ; Clostridial myonecrosis

When contaminated food is consumed, the ingested Clostridium perfringens reach the intestine, where alfa-enterotoxin is produced during sporulation.

Symptoms may develop within 2 to 4 hours, but 8 to 12 hours is usual.

Symptoms include cramping abdominal pain, sudden vomiting, and frequent episodes of watery diarrhea.

The effect of the toxin appears to be greatest in the ileum. The patient usually recovers.

Further reading:

Genetic diversity of Clostridium perfringens type A isolates from animals, food poisoning outbreaks and sludge.

Prevalence and characterization of Clostridium perfringens from spices in Argentina.

Clostridium perfringens foodborne outbreak due to braised chop suey supplied by chafing dish.

PCR identification of the plasmid-borne enterotoxin gene (cpe) in Clostridium perfringens strains isolated from food poisoning outbreaks.

Foodborne outbreak by Clostridium perfringens in a school dining room.

Diagnosis and epidemiological investigation of an outbreak of Clostridium perfringens food poisoning.

PCR detection and prevalence of enterotoxin (cpe) gene in Clostridium perfringens isolated from diarrhea patients.

Direct detection of Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin in patients' stools during an outbreak of food poisoning.

Phenotypic Characterization of Enterotoxigenic Clostridium perfringens Isolates from Non-foodborne Human Gastrointestinal Diseases.

Prevalence of the enterotoxin gene and clonality of Clostridium perfringens strains associated with food-poisoning outbreaks.

Clostridium perfringens food-borne outbreak: an epidemiological investigation.




Dr Sampurna Roy  MD

Consultant  Histopathologist (Kolkata - India)  ;  Dermpath-India  ;   Soft Tissue Tumour Online ; Cardiac Path Online ;

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