Clostridium perfringens Clostridium perfringens infections

Clostridium perfringens appearance

  • large Gram-positive rods with blunt ends ("boxcar-shaped")
  • anaerobic bacteria
  • nonmotile
  • usually encapsulated
  • spore-forming (spores are rarely seen in vivo or in vitro); when present, they are large, oval, central or subterminal, cause swelling of cells)

Infections caused by Clostridium perfringens

Clostridium perfringens is everpresent in nature and can be found as a normal component of decaying vegetation, marine sediment, the intestinal tract of humans and other vertebrates, insects, and soil. C. perfringens is the third most common cause of food poisoning in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Clostridium perfringens is the most common bacterial agent for gas gangrene, which is necrosis, putrefaction of tissues, and gas production. It is caused primarily by Clostridium perfringens alpha toxin. The gases form bubbles in muscle (crepitus) and the characteristic smell in decomposing tissue. After rapid and destructive local spread (which can take only hours), systemic spread of bacteria and bacterial toxins may cause death. This is a problem in major trauma and in military contexts. (Wikipedia)

Clostridium perfringens treatment (gas gangrene)

If suspected on clinical grounds, treatment should begin without waiting for lab results. Traumatic wounds should be cleaned. Wounds that cannot be cleaned should not be stitched shut. Penicillin prophylaxis kills many clostridia and is thus useful for dirty wounds and lower leg amputations. A high infectious dose is required; the carrier state persists for several days.

Antibiotics alone are not effective because they do not penetrate ischaemic muscles sufficiently to be effective. However, penicillin is given as an adjuvant treatment to surgery. In addition to surgery and antibiotics, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used and acts to inhibit the growth of and kill the anaerobic C. perfringens.

  • Penicillin G

Possible therapy
  • chloramphenicol
  • clindamycin
  • metronidazole
  • ampicillin
  • cefoxitin




Clostridium perfringens Gram stain Clostridium perfringens appearance bacteria