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Clostridium perfringens infections – a diagnostic challenge
  1. Piet Deprez, DVM, DipECBH, PhD
  1. Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium
  1. e-mail: piet.deprez{at}

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Clostridium perfringens is one of the most widespread bacteria on earth, with a ubiquitous environmental presence in soil, sewage, food and faecal-contaminated material. While C perfringens is also part of the normal intestinal flora in people and animals (McClane and others 2013) it can, under certain circumstances, cause severe intra- and extra-intestinal pathologies. In human medicine C perfringens is the most important cause of gas gangrene and a variety of gastrointestinal illnesses such as food poisoning, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and enteritis necroticans (Uzal and others 2014).

In animals C perfringens is also responsible for histotoxic infections such as myonecrosis and anaerobic cellulitis, but its major economic importance lies in causing gastrointestinal infections. Globally C perfringens causes major losses in poultry by inducing necrotic enteritis in broilers (Timbermont and others 2011). In domestic farm animals C perfringens is associated with several types of enteritis, such as necrotising enteritis in mostly young animals (piglets, foals, calves), and enteritis or colitis in adult goats, dogs and horses (Uzal and others 2010). Next to enteritis, C perfringens is typically known for causing enterotoxaemias, where toxins produced in the intestine are absorbed into the circulation (Songer 1996). Depending on the toxins involved, this may lead to, for example, intravascular haemolysis, capillary damage, platelet aggregation and cardiac effects with ensuing shock …

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