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Clostridium is a genus of Gram positive anaerobic spore-forming bacteria.

There are many species of Clostridium but the four main species causing human disease are:


Clostridium botulinum is a spore-forming, anaerobic bacillus which produces a toxin that causes botulism. C. botulinum was first recognized and isolated in 1896 by Van Ermengem and is commonly found in soil.

These rod-shaped organisms grow best in low oxygen conditions. The bacteria form spores which allow them to survive in a dormant state until exposed to conditions that can support their growth.


Each of the seven subtypes of C. botulinum produce seven different botulinum toxins (one per subtype). These are labeled with letters and are called A-G types (types C and D are not human pathogens). A "mouse protection" test determines the type of C. botulinum present (monoclonal antibodies used). In the United States, outbreaks are primarily due to types A, B (which are found in soil) or E (which is found in fish).

Optimum temperature for types A & B is 35-40 C. Minimum pH is 4.6. It takes 25 min at 100C to kill these types. Optimum temperature for type E is 18-25C. Minimum pH is 5.0. It takes about 0.1 minute at 100C to kill type E C. botulinum.

Clostridium botulinum is also used to prepare Botox, used to selectively paralyze muscles to temporarily relieve wrinkles. It has other "off-label" medical purposes, such as treating headaches.

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