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Clostridium Perfringens Toxins Involved in Mammalian Veterinary Diseases.

  • Author(s): Uzal, FA
  • Vidal, JE
  • McClane, BA
  • Gurjar, AA
  • et al.

Clostridium perfringens is a gram-positive anaerobic rod that is classified into 5 toxinotypes (A, B, C, D, and E) according to the production of 4 major toxins, namely alpha (CPA), beta (CPB), epsilon (ETX) and iota (ITX). However, this microorganism can produce up to 16 toxins in various combinations, including lethal toxins such as perfringolysin O (PFO), enterotoxin (CPE), and beta2 toxin (CPB2). Most diseases caused by this microorganism are mediated by one or more of these toxins. The role of CPA in intestinal disease of mammals is controversial and poorly documented, but there is no doubt that this toxin is essential in the production of gas gangrene of humans and several animal species. CPB produced by C. perfringens types B and C is responsible for necrotizing enteritis and enterotoxemia mainly in neonatal individuals of several animal species. ETX produced by C. perfringens type D is responsible for clinical signs and lesions of enterotoxemia, a predominantly neurological disease of sheep and goats. The role of ITX in disease of animals is poorly understood, although it is usually assumed that the pathogenesis of intestinal diseases produced by C. perfringens type E is mediated by this toxin. CPB2, a necrotizing and lethal toxin that can be produced by all types of C. perfringens, has been blamed for disease in many animal species, but little information is currently available to sustain or rule out this claim. CPE is an important virulence factor for C. perfringens type A gastrointestinal disease in humans and dogs; however, the data implicating CPE in other animal diseases remains ambiguous. PFO does not seem to play a direct role as the main virulence factor for animal diseases, but it may have a synergistic role with CPA-mediated gangrene and ETX-mediated enterotoxemia. The recent improvement of animal models for C. perfringens infection and the use of toxin gene knock-out mutants have demonstrated the specific pathogenic role of several toxins of C. perfringens in animal disease. These research tools are helping us to establish the role of each C. perfringens toxin in animal disease, to investigate the in vivo mechanism of action of these toxins, and to develop more effective vaccines against diseases produced by these microorganisms.

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