Epidemiology of Diarrhoea Caused by Enterotoxigenic Clostridium Perfringens

J Med Microbiol. 1985 Dec;20(3):363-72. doi: 10.1099/00222615-20-3-363.


Enterotoxigenic strains of Clostridium perfringens have recently been implicated in some cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. We present here the results of an epidemiological study of this disease. Five cases of diarrhoea caused by C. perfringens serotype 41 occurred during a 9-week period, and then during a 6-week period there were three cases due to serotype 27 and two due to serotype 24; in all but one case two geriatric wards were involved. In total there were 16 cases in 22 months. All cases were identified by the detection of C. perfringens enterotoxin in the faeces. The mean number of C. perfringens in these cases was 10(8.8) cfu/g of faeces. Of 37 patients who had negative test results for C. perfringens enterotoxin, 18 had positive cultures for C. perfringens, with mean faecal counts of 10(5.3) cfu/g, and nine of these patients had diarrhoea. Thirteen different serotypes were isolated from these 18 patients, including type 41 from seven patients and type 27 from one. Hand carriage of the offending serotype was demonstrated in three of four infected patients, none of four controls and two of 14 ward staff. C. perfringens of serotypes causing disease was isolated from 59% of environmental areas where there was active disease, 27% of areas where there had been disease which had since resolved and 9% of areas where there was no history of disease. The findings imply that cross infection may occur.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Clostridium Infections / epidemiology
  • Clostridium Infections / microbiology*
  • Clostridium perfringens / classification
  • Clostridium perfringens / isolation & purification*
  • Clostridium perfringens / metabolism
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / microbiology*
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / microbiology*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • England
  • Enterotoxins / biosynthesis
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Geriatrics
  • Hand
  • Hospital Units
  • Humans
  • Patients' Rooms
  • Serotyping
  • Skin / microbiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Enterotoxins
  • enterotoxin, Clostridium