What is Clostridium Bacteria?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2018
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An estimated 100 species can be found in the Clostridium genus of bacteria, and they live all over the world. Humans are primarily interested in a handful of species that can be pathogenic in nature, along with those that can be used for certain industrial applications. Like many bacteria, Clostridium are ubiquitous in the environment; for example, they are commonly present in the intestinal tracts of humans.

These rod shaped bacteria stain Gram positive, and they are capable of forming endospores. These spores can go into dormancy to resist hostile conditions, and they are capable of enduring many measures used to sterilize environments to remove them. They will awaken when conditions appear safe, allowing the bacteria to flourish. Most Clostridium bacteria need anaerobic environments to live, and they produce energy by fermentation, usually generating an unpleasant odor as a byproduct.

Several species can be used in the production of ethanol, as they generate it as a byproduct of fermentation. This fact has been of interest to companies which work on alternative fuels. Research on additional Clostridium bacteria species may reveal other potential applications for these common bacteria. These bacteria are also known nitrogen fixers in soil, contributing a benefit to gardens and crops.


For humans, four species are of particular interest: C. botulinum, C. perfringens, C. tetani, and C. difficile. These bacteria are responsible for botulism, gas gangrene, tetanus, and enterocolitis, and they can pose a serious problem for medical professionals. The botulism-causing bacteria thrives in rotten food, especially in sealed containers that people may think are safe, causing numerous cases of food-borne illness that can be life threatening. C. difficile inhabits the intestines of healthy people, but it can quickly take over and cause a severe infection if the good bacteria in the gut are disabled. C. sordelli is another pathogenic bacteria that has been known to cause infections in pregnant and pediatric patients.

The risk of infection with Clostridium bacteria can be reduced by observing basic hygiene. People should wash their hands after using the restroom, scrub foods before eating them and observe safe canning practices when making preserved food. Patients must always follow medical recommendations carefully when receiving treatment for a Clostridium infection to ensure that the bacteria are removed from the body.


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Post 3

Aside from gram staining, what are the other steps taken for clostridium identification? I know that if someone were infected with a pathological bacteria, like those that cause botulism or tetanus, then you can tell from their symptoms, but surely there are other medical steps for identifying bacteria beyond the gram negative/positive test, right?

Can anybody clear this up for me?

Post 2

Wow, who knew that tetanus and botulism were related? Frankly, the whole idea of bacteria living in the body really freaks me out, although I know that most of them do a lot of good, and it's only a few of the bad ones that do harm.

However, I wonder how most people would react if they got a bacteria test done and saw just how many bacillus (bacteria) were on their body -- I know that I wouldn't be to happy about it, whether they're good for me or not!

I don't know, to me, whether it's something harmful like staphylococcus bacteria, or something helpful like a probiotic, I still just don't like to think about it.

Post 1

How do clostridium bacteria differ in terms of bacteria characteristics from other kinds of bacteria, like enteric bacteria?

Both can cause illness, and some species of both genuses are pathogenic. Also, they are both rod-shaped, for the most part, I think.

So what makes these bacteria different than those in the enteric family?

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