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Clostridium
 
Description:

Clostridium - Clostridia are anaerobic (meaning unable to grow in the presence of free oxygen), gram positive, spore-forming, bacteria. Members of this genus resemble large, straight or slightly curved rods with rounded ends.

Spores do not germinate and growth does not normally proceed unless a suitable environment exists. In their active form, these bacteria secrete powerful exotoxins that are responsible for such diseases as tetanus (lockjaw), botulism, PDD syndrome, and gas gangrene. When the environment becomes less suitable for growth the bacteria begin producing spores that are able to tolerate much greater extremes than the active bacteria. The four most notable species of Clostridium are Clostridium tetani, Clostridium difficile, Clostridium perfringens, and Clostridium botulinum.

*Members of this genus produce some of the most potent toxins discovered by scientists. The toxins are relatively heat stable but may be destroyed by boiling. There are different types of the toxin; types A and C cause the disease in birds while type B frequently produces the disease in humans.

Clostridium botulinum - The organism that causes botulism is common in nature and is widely present in soils. Ingestion of the organism is not harmful. It becomes dangerous only when conditions are favorable for its growth and subsequent toxin formation. The toxin produced by C. botulinum, the causative agent of botulism, is considered one of the most potent poisons known.

The organism grows best under high humidity and relatively high temperature and in an environment containing decaying organic material (plant or animal). The organism requires an environment in which all atmospheric oxygen is eliminated. C. botulinum cannot multiply in the presence of free oxygen. Botulism results after the decaying animal or plant material containing the toxin is consumed. Decaying carcasses are a frequent source of the toxin, as are many insects feeding in the same tissue. The insects may contain enough toxin to cause the disease in any bird that ingests it. Since the toxin is water soluble, water sources may become contaminated and provide a reservoir for the disease.

*Vultures seem to be able to tolerate this and other similar toxins remarkable well.

Clostridium perfringens - This organism is capable of producing type (A, B, C, D, and E) toxins that can causes necrosis of

the surrounding tissue including muscular tissue. The bacteria themselves produce gas that leads to bubbly deformations of the infected tissue. C. perfringens is capable of necrotizing intestinal tissue and can release an enterotoxin that may lead to severe diarrhea. These symptoms are sometimes mistakenly identified as being the result of Proventicular Dilation Disease or PDD infection in birds.

Clostridium tetani - This bacterium causes tetanus (lockjaw) in humans. Spores enter the body through any type of skin trauma. If and anaerobic (absence of oxygen) environment is present, the spores will germinate and eventually form an active bacterial infection. The bacteria then releases an exotoxin called tetanospasmin that effects the nervous system. One of the effects includes skeletal muscle contraction due to blockage of interneurons that regulate muscle contraction. If not treated early, mortality rates of this disease are high. Immunization is available for children and adults.
Transmission: Ingestion and wound infection contracted by spores from contaminated dirt. Inhalation of spores or bacteria from contaminated feed, water, fecal material, air, soil, and nesting material.
Symptoms: Symptoms vary depending on the type of Clostridial infection. Disease is generally caused by type-C strains of C. perfringens producing toxin in the small intestines of birds, resulting in rapped loss of condition and weight loss, lethargic behavior, decreased appetite, and blood stained or undigested food. The toxin, and its effects may remain in the system for extended periods of time even after the original bacterial infection has been treated.
Prevention: Minimize stress and overcrowding; Provide proper ventilation; Prevent malnutrition with a proper diet. Make sure feed is properly stored and is free of bacterial growth. Spores may be present in corn and grain products as well as manufactured pellets or extruded food and may develop bacterial growth if conditions are favorable.
Treatment: Antitoxins provide quick relief, Guanidine, Zinc bacitracin, penicillin, tetracycline's are used to treat infections.
Diagnosis:

Gram-stained smears from affected tissue including the greenish-brown focal areas of necrosis in the liver. Large gram-positive cells are almost certain to be clostridia, especially if spores are seen.

All toxin types (A, B, C, D, and E) of C. perfringens are culturally identical, and can only be distinguished by serological, PCR or sequence methods. When applying a certain treatment it is necessary to determine the type of C. perfringens causing the disease.
Sample: Intestinal contents, scrapings of the intestinal wall, or hemorrhagic mesenteric lymphoid nodules will show large numbers of short, thick gram-positive rods.
Handling: Prior to shipping samples should be stored at 4 C. Samples must be shipped overnight in a transport medium.
Limitations:
References:
 
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