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.