- Clostridium botulinum, an organism producing a toxin in food that causes botulism.
- Clostridium difficile, which can overgrow other bacteria in the gut during antibiotic therapy, causing pseudomembranous colitis.
- Clostridium perfringens, which gets into wounds, and is an important cause of gas gangrene.
- Clostridium tetani, the causitive organism of tetanus (lockjaw).
Clostridium botulinum is a spore-forming, anaerobic bacillus which produces a toxin that causes botulism. C. botulinum was first recognized and isolated in 1896 by Van Ermengem and is commonly found in soil.
These rod-shaped organisms grow best in low oxygen conditions. The bacteria form spores which allow them to survive in a dormant state until exposed to conditions that can support their growth.
Each of the seven subtypes of C. botulinum produce seven different botulinum toxins (one per subtype). These are labeled with letters and are called A-G types (types C and D are not human pathogens). A "mouse protection" test determines the type of C. botulinum present (monoclonal antibodies used). In the United States, outbreaks are primarily due to types A, B (which are found in soil) or E (which is found in fish).¹
¹ Optimum temperature for types A & B is 35-40° C. Minimum pH is 4.6. It takes 25 min at 100°C to kill these types. Optimum temperature for type E is 18-25°C. Minimum pH is 5.0. It takes about 0.1 minute at 100°C to kill type E C. botulinum.
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