October 27, 2011
Clostridium perfringens is not the 24 hour flu although it is often confused with being. It is one of the most wide spread foodborne pathogens in the world, commonly referred to as the "food service bug" 1. The type A strain of C. perfringens is caused by a bacterial infection that releases alpha-toxins and is associated with undercooked and improperly handled meats. This type of food poisoning, although usually mild, can have some devastating consequences to an individuals’ overall health. Bacterial infection symptoms can range from bloating and stomach discomfort, to gas gangrene lesions and even death. Gas gangrene, Clostridial myonecrosis, lesions multiply up through the skin as gases are released from its alpha-toxins. This is the bacterium's fermentation process of metabolism, resulting in immediate tissue death. Along with tainted meat, the bacterium can normally be found within the human gastrointestinal tract, fecal matter, and soil. Its endospores can lie dormant for long periods of time until the right conditions present itself to begin its germination process. Whether or not careful food handling was present during its preparation, C. perfringens endospores can survive in proper cooking conditions and can withstand boiling temperatures for up to an hour 2. Due to its ability to germinate so rapidly, C. perfringens has been facilitated, in combination with other deadly agents, to create some very destructive forms of biological warfare. In 1991 the University of Bagdad was suspected of using the a-toxins from C. perfringens to combine it with small pox DNA, creating an apocalyptic chimera, a virtually indestructible virus that could wipe out entire populations over a very short period of time. These potential weapons of mass destruction played a contributing factor in the United States initiation of both gulf wars over the past two decades.
Specific epithet: Perfringens3
C. perfringens is a gram-positive, large, rectangular bacilli about a half micron across and about 5 microns long 4. Its cell wall is encapsulated, making this microorganism moderately salt tolerant and very virulent. Its spores are non-motile, ovoid, and subterminal. It is anaerobic but aerotolerant if bacterium is grown on media supplemented with blood, due to its virulence when combined with ferrous iron 5. This occurs due to its lack in orthologous enzymes required for amino acid biosynthesis, and cannot grow in environments where an amino acid supply is limited. The C. perfringens genome contains anaerobic fermentation enzymes leading to gas-gangrene, a flesh-eater. According to a study done by the Department of Microbiology, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Japan, the chromosome has 10 rRNA genes and 96 species of tRNA genes. C. perfringens has a much stronger tendency to arrange genes such that their transcriptional orientation is the same as their replication direction, making this bacterium able to replicate itself as soon as it is transcribed within its genes, which is extremely fast. C. perfringens utilizes a variety of sugars such as fructose, lactose, maltose, galactose, glycogen, raffinose, mannose, sucrose, starch and various genes for glycolytic enzymes6. It originates within the intestinal tract of humans and animals, fecal matter, raw meat, decaying vegetation, and marine life. The endospores can be located in many common places, they can survive in soil, water, fecal matter, raw meat, dust, sewage areas, and anywhere there is fecal contamination2. Depending on its environmental conditions, this organism will either germinate or sporulate. During optimum conditions this bacterium can germinate at rates in which it is doubling itself every 8-10 minutes....
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