Discover the bacteria ”Clostridium butyricum”, which can cause the deadly disease called botulism. Learn what environment ”Clostridium butyricum” needs to grow and the special ability this bacteria has to survive harsh conditions.
The Genus Clostridium
Clostridium. It is a term that holds powerful meaning in the microbial world. Most microbiologists know that bacteria in the Clostridium genus can cause a wide array of human illnesses. These range from a potentially deadly tetanus infection caused by Clostridium tenani, to a serious wound infection called gas gangrene caused by Clostridium perfringens.
Perhaps one of the most feared neurotoxins, or a toxin that affects the nervous system, is commonly produced by Clostridium botulism. Neurotoxins from this bacteria can cause botulism. However, less commonly known is another species named Clostridium butyricum, which can also produce the toxins that cause botulism.
Clostridium Butyricum Basics
Only in recent times has the importance of Clostridium butyricum come to light. Much like its better-known close relative, Clostridium botulism, this bacteria lives in soil. It is a Gram-positive bacterium, meaning that on the outermost surface of the cell lies a thick peptidoglycan (a sugar-protein complex) layer.
Clostridium butyricum, or C. butyricum, grows underground where other plants have used most of the oxygen. Described as an obligate anaerobic bacteria, Clostridium butyricum needs low oxygen conditions in order to grow.This bacteria’s preference for low oxygen conditions makes it a dangerous factor in food preservation. Even a food that is preserved or canned can still grow C.
butyricum because of its ability to multiply in anaerobic (low oxygen) conditions. It is also a problem for sausages, where the inside of the sausage provides a good environment for these bacteria. In fact, the name ‘botulism’ arises from the Latin word ‘botulus’ which translates to ‘sausage’, because of frequent European outbreaks of botulism in previous centuries.
A Dangerous Neurotoxin
Although anyone is susceptible, infants are at the highest risk of getting botulism, as the bacteria can grow within their intestines.
Symptoms can include constipation, nausea, and vomiting. The toxin also makes muscles weak and achy, causes general lethargy, and trouble breathing. Infants require hospitalization, a feeding tube, and may need a respirator to help them breathe. Luckily, early treatment that involves administering an antitoxin has greatly reduced the fatality rate.
Clostridium butyricum is a rod-shaped bacteria. Some strains of this species are capable of producing the neurotoxin that causes botulism. Hard to kill, this bacteria needs high heat for long periods of time to destroy and break down the toxin. Another reason why C. butyricum is a hard bacteria to beat is that it can form endospores when it is in an unfriendly environment.
Endospores are a dormant state for the bacteria and allow it to survive extreme temperature, radiation, and antibiotics without nutrients. Once the environment turns favorable, the bacteria can again begin to multiply.Although it is typically C. botulism found in canned food that causes the botulism illness, there have been cases where C. butyricum has been the culprit. Recently, C.
butyricum-based botulism illnesses have surfaced from a surprising source: pet terrapin turtles. Although regarded as a healthy treat for most, honey can also contain small amounts of Clostridium that are harmful for infants under one years of age.
Clostridium as a Probiotic
Not all strains of Clostridium butyricum are pathogenic, and some strains of these bacteria are normal inhabitants of our intestines. It might sound hard to believe, but while some strains of C.
butyricum can cause major stomach illness, others actually help the digestive tract. Found in the digestive tract of some healthy individuals, C. butyricum may help the body break down food for digestion. In Japan, some people take a probiotic, a live bacterial supplement, which includes a specific strain of C.
Some members of the bacterial genus Clostridium can cause the potentially fatal disease botulism; namely C. botulism and sometimes C. butyricum. Botulism is caused by a neurotoxin that is produced by these bacteria, and when these bacteria are ingested they can cause stomach ailments and muscle weakness. An obligate anaerobic bacteria, C. butyricum is typically found in soil, but can also grow in other low-oxygen environments.
Clostridium can be found in preserved food, canned food, sausages, and even honey. Infants under the age of one are prone to contracting botulism and require medical treatment that may involve a breathing respirator and administration of an antitoxin.