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Clostridium perfringens Food Poisoning


Thomas G. Boyce

, MD, MPH, University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Jun 2019| Content last modified Jun 2019

Clostridium perfringens food poisoning results from eating food contaminated by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens. Once in the small intestine, the bacterium releases a toxin that often causes diarrhea.

Clostridium perfringens is a bacteria that causes several disorders, including gastroenteritis. Some strains cause mild to moderate gastroenteritis that gets better without treatment, whereas other strains cause severe disease that can damage the small intestine and sometimes lead to death. Contaminated beef, poultry, gravies, and dried or precooked foods are usually responsible for outbreaks of Clostridium perfringens food poisoning. Some strains cannot be destroyed by cooking the food thoroughly, whereas others can.

Symptoms of Clostridial Food Poisoning

The gastroenteritis starts about 6 to 24 hours after contaminated food is eaten. The most common symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Although usually mild, the infection also can cause abdominal pain, abdominal expansion (distention) from gas, severe diarrhea, dehydration, and a severe decrease in blood pressure (shock). Symptoms of Clostridium perfringens food poisoning usually last about 24 hours.

Diagnosis of Clostridial Food Poisoning

  • A doctor's evaluation
  • Sometimes testing contaminated food or stool

A doctor usually suspects the diagnosis of Clostridium perfringens food poisoning when a local outbreak of the disease has occurred. The diagnosis is confirmed by testing contaminated food or stool samples from infected people for Clostridium perfringens.

Prevention of Clostridial Food Poisoning

  • Prompt refrigeration and thorough reheating of leftovers

To prevent infection, leftover cooked meat should be refrigerated promptly and reheated thoroughly before serving.

Treatment of Clostridial Food Poisoning

  • Fluids and rest

The person is given fluids and is encouraged to rest. Antibiotics are not given.

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