Clostridium perfringens
Amy Hunt

Clostridium perfringens is also know as Clostridium welchii and is a member of the kingdom bacteria. C. perfringens was discovered in 1892 by two men: George Nuttall and William Welch which were and still are two well respected men in there field. George Nuttall was an American-British bacteriologist but contributed to many areas of science. Nuttall founded the Molteno Institute Biology and Parasitology at Cambridge University and he was in charge there until 1921. Nuttall also founded the Journal of Hygiene in 1901 and the Journal of Parasitology in 1908, he also edited for both journals. William Welch began his studies in the U.S of pathology and continued them in Germany. He later returned to the U.S. where he opened the first pathology laboratory at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City in 1879. He went on from the pathology laboratory and in 1893 directed Johns Hopkins University and started the first university department of pathology in the U.S. Both men have made great discoveries and everlasting impressions in biology.

C. perfringens is gram-positive, rod-shaped, spore-forming and is present almost everywhere in nature especially in soil. C. perfringens is very durable due to its ability to produce spores. The spores allow C. perfringens to be dormant during periods that are not environmentally friendly and make it very easy for these bacteria to cause contamination in foods because during the dormant stage C. perfringens is resistant to disinfectants, temperature, starvation and many other factors that are meant to cause harm to bacteria.

The way that C. perfringens enters the body determines the possible influence it will have on the person. If ingested it can cause food poisoning but if it enters through an open wound then it can cause gas gangrene. C. perfringens is best known for causing food poisoning. Food poisoning is caused by the enterotoxin produced by C. perfringens. The enterotoxin is often heat-resistant and is commonly found in meat and poultry. The enterotoxin is usually non-fatal and an infected person is better with in 24 hours. There is a Type C strain that produces ulcerative beta-toxin that can cause death if untreated. It is believed that the majority of the population has had food poisoning due to the amount of antibodies found in blood samples through out the world. This would make sense because C. perfringens is very abundant. Gas gangrene is also known as Clostridial myonecrosis. The toxin produced by C. perfringens is called alpha-toxin which is an exotoxin that destroys tissue and generates a gas. The alpha-toxin enters into the plasma membrane of the cells. The alpha-toxin produces holes in the plasma membrane with disrupts normal cell function and the tissue will begin to decompose from the inside out. C. perfringens is a very interesting bacterium because this family of bacteria can cause a variety of illnesses and they are very abundant. After learning about C. perfringens it is amazing more people are not sick more often. Just think this is just one family of bacteria and there are many more bacteria that are just as toxic and are abundant.


Clostridium perfringens.

Purdue University – wanted picture of C. perfringens

*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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