(See also Overview of Anaerobic Bacteria Overview of Anaerobic Bacteria Bacteria can be classified by their need and tolerance for oxygen: Facultative: Grow aerobically or anaerobically in the presence or absence of oxygen Microaerophilic: Require a low oxygen concentration... read more and Overview of Clostridial Infections Overview of Clostridial Infections Clostridia are spore-forming, gram-positive, anaerobic bacilli present widely in dust, soil, and vegetation and as normal flora in mammalian gastrointestinal tracts. Pathogenic species produce... read more .)
C. perfringens food poisoning is usually a mild clostridial infection.
C. perfringens is widely distributed in feces, soil, air, and water. Contaminated meat has caused many outbreaks. C. perfringens spores sometimes survive cooking; they can germinate and multiply, resulting in large numbers of bacteria when cooked meat that is contaminated with C. perfringens is left at room temperature or even up to 60° C (140° F, as on a warming table) for a period of time. Outbreaks typically occur in commercial establishments and rarely at home.
Once inside the gastrointestinal tract, C. perfringens produces an enterotoxin that acts on the small bowel. Only C. perfringens type A has been definitively linked to this food poisoning syndrome.
Mild gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the lining of the stomach and small and large intestines. Most cases are infectious, although gastroenteritis may occur after ingestion of drugs and chemical... read more is most common, with onset of symptoms 6 to 24 hours after ingestion of contaminated food. The most common symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Vomiting and fever are unusual. Symptoms typically resolve within 24 hours; severe or fatal cases rarely occur.
Diagnosis of C. perfringens food poisoning is based on epidemiologic evidence and isolation of large numbers of organisms from contaminated food or from stools of affected people or on direct identification of enterotoxin in stool samples.