Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Clostridium perfringens

Synonym(s): C. perfringens Clostridium welchii

Contributor(s): Sarah Binns, Susan Dawson, Richard Walker




  • Family: Bacillaceae.
  • Genus:Clostridium.
  • Species:perfringens.


  • Clostridium: Gk:kloster- spindle.
  • Perfringens: L:perforare- to pierce.

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Clinical Effects



  • C. perfringenstype 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 anaerobic conditions.
  • Relatively aerotolerant, therefore spores are rarely seen.


  • Ingestion.
  • Wound infection.

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 in animals, although reported in horses   Skin: bacterial disease - overview  .
  • Enterotoxemias: caused by the major enterotoxins of types B, C and D, occasionally type A. Usually in young animals. Caused by beta toxin (types B and C), or epsilon toxin (type D; 'pulpy kidney' in lambs). Older animals may get chronic form.
  • Has been linked to anterior enteritis in horses.
  • Must differentiate from commensal clostridia.

Other Host Effects

  • May be carried in intestine of healthy animals.


Control via chemotherapies

  • Penicillin G   Penicillin G  active against most strains ofC. perfringens.


  • Antitoxin of appropriate type may be given to sick animals, although cases of enterotoxemia generally too acute.
  • Commercial products for use mainly in sheep generally coverC. perfringenstypes C and D.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Silva R O S et al (2013) Detection of A/B toxin and isolation of Clostridium difficile and Clostridium perfringens from foals. Equine Vet J 45 (6), 671-675 PubMed.
  • Waggett B E et al (2010) Prevalence of Clostridium perfringens in faeces and ileal contents from grass sickness affected horses: Comparisons with 3 control populations. Equine Vet J 42 (6), 494-499 PubMed.
  • Cottle H J & Hughes K J (2010) Haemolytic anaemia in a pony associated with a perivascular abscess caused byClostridium perfringensEquine Vet Educ 22 (1), 13-19 VetMedResource.
  • Netherwood T, Binns M, Townsend H et al (1998) The Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin from equine isolates; its characterization, sequence and role in foal diarrhea. Epidemiol Infect 120 (2), 193-200 PubMed.
  • Griffiths N J, Walton J R & Edwards G B (1997) An investigation of the prevalence of the toxigenic types of Clostridium perfringens in horses with anterior enteritis; preliminary results. Anaerobe (2-3), 121-125 PubMed.
  • Daube G, Simon P, Limbourg B et al (1996) Hybridization of 2,659 Clostridium perfringens isolates with gene probes for seven toxins (alpha, beta, epsilon, iota, theta, mu and enterotoxin) and sialidase. Am J Vet Res 57 (4), 496-501 PubMed.