Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Clostridium perfringens type C

Contributor(s): Veronica Fowler , Tammy Hassel




  • Kingdom: bacteria.
  • Phylum: firmicutes.
  • Class: clostridia.
  • Order: clostridiales.
  • Family: clostridiaceae.
  • Genus: clostridium.
  • Species: C. perfringens.


  • Gk: Clostridium: klōstēr - a spindle. L:perforare- to pierce.

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Clinical Effects



  • C. perfringens type A occurs in the intestinal tract of animals and human beings and in most soils.
  • Type B-E are found mostly in the intestines of animals.


  • Germinate in the intestine and soil in anerobic conditions.
  • Relatively aerotolerant, therefore spores are rarely seen.


  • C. perfringens is not spread from animal to animal.
  • Exposure to risk factors predispose animals to disease onset.

Pathological effects

  • Immunity is antibody-mediated; correlates with antitoxin levels.
  • Wound infections:
    • Type A, histotoxins produced are not as potent as the neurotoxins but the organisms are invasive.
    • Alfa toxin (phospholipase C) damages cell membranes; other toxins also involved.
    • Disease caused varies from cellulitis to fatal gas gangrene.
    • Rare/insignificant in cattle.
  • Enterotoxemias:
    • Caused by the major enterotoxins of types B, C and D, occasionally type A.
    • Usually in young calves.
    • Caused by beta toxin (types B and C or epsilon toxin (type D).
    • Type C also causes enterotoxemia in older cattle.
    • Type D has been suspected in cattle but there is a lack of supporting laboratory data.
  • Must differentiate from commensal clostridia.
  • Death occurs when high levels of the bacterial toxins enter the bloodstream.
    • Once in the bloodstream the toxins cause inflammation, shock, and cardiac arrest.


Control via animal

  • Manage feeding practices to prevent abrupt changes in diet especially access to sudden and large amount of carbohydrates.
  • Ensure milk replacer is mixed properly.
  • Prevent physical or environmental stress.
  • Prevent conditions that impair movement of the intestine (eg diarrhea from another cause).
  • Enhance immunity via allowing calves to consume adequate amounts of colostrum Colostrum (first 18-24 hours after birth).  

Control via chemotherapies

  • Treatment is usually ineffective because disease progresses rapidly.
  • Penicillin G Penicillin G active against most strains of C. perfringens.

Control via environment

  • Minimize exposure via good hygiene where calves are housed.


  • Antitoxin of appropriate type may be given to sick animals, although cases of enterotoxemia generally too acute.


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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource
  • Redondo L M, Farber M, Venzano A, Jost B H, Parma Y R & Fernandez-Miyakawa M E (2013) Sudden death syndrome in adult cows associated with Clostridium perfringens type E. Anaerobe 20, 1-4 PubMed.
  • Valgaeren B, Pardon B, Goossens E, Verherstraeten S, Schauvliege S, Timbermont L, Ducatelle R, Deprez P & Van Immerseel F (2013) Lesion development in a new intestinal loop model indicates the involvement of a shared Clostridium perfringens virulence factor in haemorrhagic enteritis in calves. Journal of Comparative Pathology 149 (1), 103-112 PubMed.
  • Morris W,  Dunleavy M, Diodati J, Berra G & Fernandez-Miyakawa M (2012) Effects of Clostridium perfringens alpha and epsilon toxins in the bovine gut. Anaerobe 18 (1), 143-147 PubMed.
  • Uzal F A & McClane B A (2011) Recent progress in understanding the pathogenesis of Clostridium perfringens type C infections. Veterinary Microbiology 153 (1–2), 37-43 PubMed.
  • Gurjar A, Hegde N V, Love B C & Jayarao B M (2008) Real-time multiplex PCR assay for rapid detection and toxintyping of Clostridium perfringens toxin producing strains in feces of dairy cattle. Molecular and Cellular Probes 22 (2), 90-95 PubMed.
  • Songer J G, Miskimmins D W (2004) Clostridium perfringens type E enteritis in calves: two cases and a brief review of the literatura. Anaerobe 10, 239–242.
  • Sasaki Y, Yamamoto K, Tamura Y, Takahashi T (2001) Tetracycline-resistance genes of Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium septicum and Clostridium sordellii isolated from cattle affected with malignant edema. Veterinary Microbiology 83 (1), 61-69 PubMed.