Willett, Hilda P. Department of Microbiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
Last reviewed:February 2020
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- Histotoxic forms
- Enterotoxigenic forms
- Clostridium tetani
- Clostridium botulinum
- Disease in animals
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A genus of bacteria, including a number of important human pathogens, comprising large anaerobic spore-forming rods that usually stain Gram-positive. Most species of the genus Clostridium are anaerobes, but a few will grow minimally in air at atmospheric pressure. Members of the Clostridium (clostridia) are widely distributed in nature, and they are present in soil and in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals. They usually live a saprophytic existence and play a major role in the degradation of organic material in soil and other natural environments. Various clostridia release potent exotoxins and are pathogenic for humans and animals. Among the human pathogens are the causative agents of botulism (C. botulinum; Fig. 1), tetanus (C. tetani), and gas gangrene (C. perfringens). In addition, Clostridioides difficile (which was formerly assigned to the Clostridium genus and is abbreviated as C. difficile or C. diff) is a closely related bacterial organism that causes an antibiotic-associated enterocolitis. See also: Anaerobic infection; Bacteria; Bacteriology; Medical bacteriology; Pathogen; Public health; Toxin
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