The Clostridium is a genus of the bacteria family Clostridiaceae. Members of genus Clostridium are Gram-positive, spore-forming, obligate anaerobes bacteria. They are capable of producing the endospores. The normal, vegetative form cells of the genus of Clostridium are rod-shaped, and its endospores have a bottle or distinct bowling pin shape, which is quite different from other bacteria ovoid shaped endospores. Clostridium bacteria inhabit soils and are normal inhabitants of the healthy lower reproductive tract of women. The genus Clostridium contains around 100 species, including many common free-living species and several important human pathogens, such as Clostridium difficile, Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium tetani and Clostridium sordellii. Species of Clostridium genus produce several of the most potent toxins that scientists ever discovered.
Fig. 1 Clostridium botulinum and their spores
Clostridium botulinum can cause botulism by producing botulinum toxin in food or wounds. It is responsible for foodborne botulism, infant botulism, and wound botulism. The botulinum toxin is now also known as Botox, and has been involved in numerous therapeutic applications. For example, Botox can be used in cosmetic surgery to paralyze facial muscles in order to reduce the signs of aging. Clostridium difficile can cause superinfection potentially fatal pseudomembranous colitis. It is able to flourish during the antibiotic treating, while other gut flora bacteria were eliminated at the same time. Clostridium perfringens can be found as a normal component of decaying vegetation, the intestinal tract of humans, marine sediment and other insects, vertebrates, and soil. It causes a wide range of symptoms including food poisoning, cellulitis, fasciitis, and gas gangrene. In fact, it is the third most common pathogen of food poisoning in both UK and USA, despite that in some cases it can be ingested without any harm. Clostridium tetani is found as spores in the gastrointestinal tract of animals or in soil. It can produce another potent toxin known as tetanospasmin, and can cause tetanus, a disease described by painful muscular spasms that can lead to respiratory failure, with a mortality rate of 10%.
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