Human disease associated with Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin

Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 1997;150:75-94. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4612-2278-1_3.


Clostridium perfringens continues to be a common cause of food-borne disease. Characteristics of this organism that contribute to its ability to cause food-borne illness include the formation of heat-resistant spores that survive normal cooking/heating temperatures, a rapid growth rate in warm food, and the production of enterotoxin (CPE) in the human gut. Time and temperature abuse associated with food preparation contributes to the majority of outbreaks of C. perfringens food-borne disease. CPE-induced diarrhea has been reported in the absence of a defined food vehicle. These cases have been typically associated with the elderly and following a course of antibiotic therapy. The incidence of CPE-induced diarrhea may be expected to increase with the growing population of immunocompromised (disease-, treatment-, or age-induced) individuals. Clostridium perfringens has been implicated as a possible contributor to the development of SIDS in susceptible individuals. Specifically, it has been hypothesized that CPE acts as a triggering agent, initiating the events associated with the development of SIDS. Continued refinement of both immunoassays and molecular methods for toxin and gene detection, respectively, will facilitate their eventual availability as commercial kits, providing rapid and simplified methods for the detection of C. perfringens isolates that produce or have the capacity to produce CPE as well as other toxins associated with this organism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clostridium Infections / diagnosis
  • Clostridium Infections / epidemiology*
  • Clostridium perfringens / pathogenicity*
  • Enterotoxins / adverse effects
  • Food Handling / standards
  • Food Microbiology
  • Foodborne Diseases / diagnosis
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Sudden Infant Death / epidemiology


  • Enterotoxins