Clostridium is a family of anaerobic bacteria, capable of producing spores in the process of so-called sporulation. By the way such a spore is an engineering wonder of the nature – when confronting unfavorable conditions the microorganism decides to inhibit its growth and division in order to proceed with building something that we would call a survival capsule. A part of the genetic material of the mother cell is shifted to the capsule, where it is surrounded by densified cytoplasm. In the next step the bacterium wraps the spore in a complex net of hermetic shields and a rescue ”space capsule” is ready to detach when the mother ship is destroyed. Is it really us who invented science fiction?
Clostridium bacteria lives inside of and around us, including Clostridium perfringens and Clostridium difficile – the two most known family members, well recognized for their pathogenic potential. They are not picky and try to colonize everything that moves – cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, goats, birds, dogs, cats, bears. C.difficile was even found in a snake. As if it wasn’t enough, they live even in soil and water.
Clostridium perfringens and Clostridium difficile have been attracting constant interest of scientists for a long time but their secrets still remain well guarded. Some strains of these bacteria can produce toxins that are dangerous both for humans and animals and cause a number of intestinal diseases with a severe diarrhea as a major symptom. From food poisoning (here the leader is Clostridium perfringens type A) through Clostridium difficile colitis to sometimes deadly enterotoxicosis. In the latter case, bacteria toxins penetrate into the bloodstream which results in damaging organs, even those located far from the place of infection. It can end in a sudden death within few hours!
Clostridium difficile is also a serious factor of nosocomial infections. Bacterial spores are resistant to disinfectants and can even survive cooking. Main stream medicine treats infections caused by Clostridium bacteria with antibiotics (paradoxically some cases of C.dificille diarrheas are a complication of such therapies). Unfortunately these little “bugs” are wise and learn fast how to resist to antibiotic.
On February 15th of 2018, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) published an update to their earlier guidelines for the treatment of diseases caused by C.difficile infection in adults, recommending vancomycin and fidaxomycin as the first line antibiotics therapy instead of using metronidazole as it was advised before. Why? Because resistant to metronidazole strains of C.difficile have already emerged. This is bad news for all dog owners because the currently suggested antibiotics are rather expensive, especially in the veterinary medicine.
Apart from being more drug resistant, bacteria (by permanent change in their genes) constantly mutate into more virulent strains .What if some day we wake up in a world where fidaxomycin or vancomycine (which we can’t afford anyway) are not enough for these vicious germs?
But is it Clostridium to be blamed in case of infection in our dog ? Yes and no.
Both C. perfringens and C.difficile can be dogs regular gut flora inhabitants. Wrong diagnosis means unnecessary and expensive antibiotic course. So, instead of finding bacteria alone, more sophisticated techniques are used in search of their toxins. Still it is not enough yet. Some studies conducted as early as in year 1989, discovered that sick dogs had a relatively high number of C.perfringens and its toxin (Called CPE toxin) in the feces but 7% of perfectly healthy dogs had them too.
From hollistic point of view it is quite a normal situation – good guys can become bad guys if you make them nervous and curiously enough – it seems that CPE eneterotoxin, dangerous pathogen for the gastrointestinal tract, is produced when C.perfringens decides to go into sporulation because it finds the host’s intestine uncomfortable (it may happen when for instance you feed your dog with cold food). During sporulation process the poisonous enterotoxin is abundantly released. Some sources go as far as to suggest that bacteria with the aid of enterotoxins try to induce host’s diarrhea on purpose. They want their spores to go back to environment where they can be transferred to new hosts.
Unbelievable isn’t it? Anyway it is better not to make Clostridium nervous, just in case.
1.GLENN SONGER Clostridial Enteric Diseases of Domestic Animals
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Accessed on 07.05.2018 at : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC172891/pdf/090216.pdf
Larry K. Kociolek, MD, MSCI Updated C difficile Infection Clinical Guidance From IDSA/SHEA
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Accessed on 07.05.2018 at : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2548985
Jihong Li, Daniel Paredes-Sabja, Mahfuzur R. Sarker, and Bruce A. McClane. Clostridium perfringens Sporulation and Sporulation-Associated Toxin Production .Micobiol Spectr.2016 Jun;4(3):10.1128/microbiolspec.TBS-0022-2015
Accessed on 07.05.2018 at : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4920134