Researchers Reveal Clostridium's Secrets

FINLAND - New research reveals that there is wide variation in the Clostridium perfringens isolates found in commercial turkeys in flocks with and without necrotic enteritis.
calendar icon 2 August 2013
clock icon 3 minute read

Clostridium perfringens is an important bacterial pathogen, especially in poultry, where it can lead to both subclinical and clinical disease, according to Ulrike Lyhs of the University of Helsinki and co-authors there and at the Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira), Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences and Denmark's DTU National Food Institute.

The aim of their study, published in Poultry Science, was to present data on pathological findings during outbreaks of necrotic enteritis (NE) in turkey production in Finland between 1998 to 2012. Furthermore, C. perfringens isolates from healthy and diseased turkeys were characterised and their genetic diversity was investigated using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).

Isolates (n=212) from birds with necrotic gut lesions and from healthy flocks of 30 commercial turkey farms were characterised for the presence of cpa, cpb, iA, etx, cpb2, and cpe and netB genes.

A total of 93 C. perfringens isolates, including 55 from birds with necrotic gut lesions and 38 from healthy birds from 13 different farms, were analysed with PFGE.

All the contract turkey farmers (n=48) of a turkey company that produces 99 per cent of domestic turkey meat in Finland were interviewed about background information, management at the farm, and stress factors related to NE outbreaks.

Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis analysis with SmaI restriction enzyme resulted in 30 PFGE patterns among the 92 C. perfringens isolates of high diversity. Out of all isolates, 212 (100 per cent) were α-toxin-positive and one isolate (0.5 per cent) was both α- and β2 toxin-positive.

Fourteen isolates (6.6 per cent) were positive for necrotic enteritis toxin B (netB); all were recovered from turkeys with NE. In none of the isolates obtained from healthy turkeys was the netB toxin identified.

Lyhs and co-authors concluded that there was a great diversity of C. perfringens isolates from turkeys with different health status was shown.

All isolates produced α-toxin, whereas few carried the netB toxin gene. The role of the netB toxin in NE in turkeys needs to be further investigated, the researchers suggested.


Lyhs U., P. Perko-Mäkelä, H. Kallio, A. Brockmann, S. Heinikainen, H. Tuuri and K. Pedersen. 2013. Characterisation of Clostridium perfringens isolates from healthy turkeys and from turkeys with necrotic enteritis. Poult. Sci. 92(7):1750-1757. doi: 10.3382/ps.2012-02903

Further Reading

You can view the full report (fee payable) by clicking here.

Find out more about necrotic enteritis by clicking here.

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