Spores of C. perfringens are widespread in the guts of large animals and in soil. If contaminated meat products are incompletely cooked and stored in anaerobic conditions, C. perfringens spores germinate and viable organisms multiply to give large numbers. Subsequent reheating of the food causes heat-shock sporulation of the organisms, during which they release an enterotoxin.
Symptoms (diarrhoea and cramps) occur some 6–12 hours following ingestion. The illness is usually self-limiting.
Clostridial enterotoxins are potent and most people who ingest them will be symptomatic. ‘Point source’ outbreaks, in which a number of cases all become symptomatic following ingestion, classically occur after school or canteen lunches where meat stews are served. Clostridial necrotising enteritis (CNE) or pigbel is an often-fatal type of food poisoning caused by a β-toxin of perfringens, type C. The toxin is normally inactivated by certain proteases or by normal cooking. Pigbel is more likely in protein malnutrition or in the presence of trypsin inhibitors, either in foods such as sweet potatoes or during infection with Ascaris sp. roundworms.
The medicines that can be thought of use are:-