Clostridium perfringens
Karissa Braaten

Background

Clostridium perfringens was formerly known as Clostridium welchii. C. perfringens is a gram-positive, rod shaped, anaerobic, spore-forming bacteria.1 Gram-positive bacteria, due to there cell wall structure, retain the blue-violet color of the crystal violet dye used in gram staining. This anaerobic bacterium uses nitrogen instead of oxygen and forms spores to ensure survival in unfavorable conditions.

C. perfringens is found virtually everywhere with the exception of sand in the Sahara desert. It is very common in soil, but has also been isolated from decaying vegetation, in the intestinal tract of animals (including humans), insects, and in marine sediment.1 Because it is found in many places, it can very easily cause a variety of infections and poisonings including: tissue necrosis, bacteremia, emphysematous cholecystitis, gas gangrene, and food poisoning.1

Diseases

C. perfringens is also referred to as a Necrotizing Fasciitis bacterium. Necrotizing fasciitis means “skin eating”. However, in reality necrotizing fasciitis is defined as killing tissue cells. This can occur in surgical incisions, around foreign tissues, and in cuts that are not cleaned. Most people who develop necrotizing fasciitis are between the age of 38-44 years. This usually only effects the skin, however, without treatment it could begin to effect the muscle tissue. Since 1883, more than 500 cases have been reported in the literature. 2

Bacterima is poisoning on the blood. This could be caused by a catheter, which would allow bacteria normally found on the skin a means to enter the blood stream.3 “Gas gangrene is caused by exotoxin-producing Clostridial species (most often Clostridium perfringens), which is mostly found in soil. The exotoxin is commonly found in C. perfringens type A species and is known as alpha toxin.”4

Food Poisoning is the most common way to be infected by C. perfringens. It is the third most common type of food-borne illness. After ingestion C. perfringens has an incubation time of 8-16 hours, at which time you will feel abdominal pain as well as experience diarrhea. Vomiting and fever are not common symptoms of C. perfringens food poisnoning. C. perfringens does trigger an immune response and antibodies to the bacterium are present in most of the population indicating that they have had food poisoning by C. perfringens at some point in there lifetime. Most cases of food poisoning only lasts about 24 hours. However, very rare, fatal cases of necrotizing enteritis have been known to involve "Type C" strains of the organism, which produce a potently ulcerative ß-toxin.1

Why C. perfringens

I ran across this bacterium while reading new articles on flesh eating bacteria and thought it sounded really interesting. I personally was fascinated with its capability to cause gas gangrene. Unfortunately, I also discovered that it is a very common bacteria and not something that would “stump the chump”. However, I still found the bacteria to be interesting and worth learning about.

References:

1. Wikipedia. Clostridium perfringens. Last modified: February 2007; Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clostridium_perfringens

2. eMedicine Necrotizing Fasciitis Last Modified: December 2006; Available at: http://www.emedicine.com/EMERG/topic332.htm

3. Wikipedia Bacteremia Last Modified: February 2007; Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacteremia

4. Wikipedia Gas gangrene Last Modified: February 2007; Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_gangrene

*Disclaimer - This report was written by a student participaring in a microbiology course at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The accuracy of the contents of this report is not guaranteed and it is recommended that you seek additional sources of information to verify the contents.

 

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