Phenotyping Clostridium septicum infection: a surgeon's infectious disease

J Surg Res. 2008 Jul;148(1):67-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2008.02.027. Epub 2008 Apr 7.


Background: Clostridium septicum infection is associated with malignancy. Whether disease phenotype is affected by malignant status is not known. Surgical treatment is used frequently but its impact on survival has not been examined in a cohort >30 patients.

Methods: A PubMed search of English language journal articles yielded 320 cases. Full information (infection location, cancer type, operative intervention, and survival) was available for 224 cases + 7 at our institution not previously reported.

Results: Seventy-two percent of patients had malignancy or malady of the gastrointestinal (GI) or hematologic (HEME) organ systems. HEME survival was inferior to GI survival (35% versus 55%, P = 0.03). Overall, patients who underwent operation had improved survival (57% versus 26%; P < 0.0001) and this association was maintained within GI and HEME cohorts (P = 0.002 and 0.005, respectively). More GI than HEME patients underwent operation (81% versus 51%, P < 0.001). GI patients were more likely than HEME patients to experience infection of skin and soft tissues (SSTI, P = 0.006). Diabetics were more likely to experience SSTI than nondiabetics (77% versus 45%, P < 0.001).

Conclusions: C. septicum infectious phenotype varies with host milieu. The SSTI phenotype is more common in GI and diabetic patients. This recognition may aid in directing the search for occult malignancy, which must be performed given the >70% incidence of concomitant cancer. This infection is more fatal in HEME versus GI patients, perhaps due in part to less HEME group operative intervention. Primary surgical therapy should be considered in GI or HEME patients as operative intervention benefits both groups.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clostridium Infections / complications*
  • Clostridium Infections / microbiology
  • Clostridium septicum / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / complications
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / complications
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Phenotype*