Clostridium perfringens is a bacteria that causes several disorders, including gastroenteritis. Some strains cause mild to moderate gastroenteritis that gets better without treatment, whereas other strains cause severe disease that can damage the small intestine and sometimes lead to death. Contaminated beef, poultry, gravies, and dried or precooked foods are usually responsible for outbreaks of Clostridium perfringens food poisoning. Some strains cannot be destroyed by cooking the food thoroughly, whereas others can.
The gastroenteritis starts about 6 to 24 hours after contaminated food is eaten. The most common symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Although usually mild, the infection also can cause abdominal pain, abdominal expansion (distention) from gas, severe diarrhea, dehydration, and a severe decrease in blood pressure (shock). Symptoms of Clostridium perfringens food poisoning usually last about 24 hours.
A doctor usually suspects the diagnosis of Clostridium perfringens food poisoning when a local outbreak of the disease has occurred. The diagnosis is confirmed by testing contaminated food or stool samples from infected people for Clostridium perfringens.