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Clostridium species

Clostridium species is a topic covered in the Johns Hopkins ABX Guide.

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  • Clostridia produce the largest number of toxins of any bacterial class.
  • The common source of entry in humans is the gastrointestinal tract or trauma.
  • Obligate anaerobic bacteria with unusual features: spore formation, toxin production and normally reside in the environment or the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals. Dominant form in human intestinal flora.
  • Belongs to phylum Firmicutes which is the dominant component of the fecal microbiome. Clostridia spp. account for 50% or about 1013/gm stool.
  • Species specific toxin expression:
  • Non toxigenic strains are often often component of mixed infections or bacteremia; pathogenic role often unclear.
Clostridia + Clostridial toxins*




Gastrointestinal tract

  • C. perfringens


Food intoxication, diarrhea, sudden infant death

Beta toxin

Necrotic enteritis

  • C. difficile

Ted A + Ted B

Antibiotic-associated diarrhea + colitis

  • C. septicum


Intestinal myonecrosis

  • C. botulinum 

BoNT/A, B, E

Human botulism

Wound-related diseases

  • C. perfringens

alfa toxin

Gangrene, Puerperal sepsis

  • C. sordellii

Tcsl, Tcstl


  • C. tetani



  • C. novyi



  • C. botulinum 

BoNT/A + B

Wound botulism

* Adapted from Popoff MR, Bouvel P; Future Microbio 2009; 4: 1021[7]

TeNT - Tetanus toxin; BoNT - Botulinium neurotoxin; TcsH - C. sordellii hemorrhagic toxic; TcsL - C. sordellii lethal toxin; TcdA, alpha toxin; TedB - Beta toxin

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Last updated: November 1, 2015


Bartlett, John G. "Clostridium Species." Johns Hopkins ABX Guide, The Johns Hopkins University, 2015. Pediatrics Central, peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540135/all/Clostridium_species.
Bartlett JG. Clostridium species. Johns Hopkins ABX Guide. The Johns Hopkins University; 2015. https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540135/all/Clostridium_species. Accessed March 24, 2019.
Bartlett, J. G. (2015). Clostridium species. In Johns Hopkins ABX Guide. Available from https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540135/all/Clostridium_species
Bartlett JG. Clostridium Species [Internet]. In: Johns Hopkins ABX Guide. The Johns Hopkins University; 2015. [cited 2019 March 24]. Available from: https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540135/all/Clostridium_species.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Clostridium species ID - 540135 A1 - Bartlett,John,M.D. Y1 - 2015/11/01/ BT - Johns Hopkins ABX Guide UR - https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540135/all/Clostridium_species PB - The Johns Hopkins University DB - Pediatrics Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -