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Assessment of the Ability of Clostridium perfringens Strains to Produce Enterotoxin After Exposure to Defined Environmental conditions


This research project aims to obtain data on the behaviour of a range of strains of Clostridium perfringens in terms of their ability to produce toxin and subsequently cause food poisoning.

<p>In order to investigate the effect of heat and cooling treatments on enterotoxin production a range of different food poisoning strains of C. perfringens will be studied.

<p>In addition, a method for measuring C. perfringens toxin is going to be developed and the heating and cooling regimes commonly used in food catering identified.

<p>An in vitro experimental system simulating the situation in C. perfringens food poisoning will be devised and the heating regimes assessed using pure spores from strains of C. perfringens and also using spores inoculated into beef slurry.

<p>After heating it may be necessary to enable surviving spores to germinate and then to induce spore formation in order for enterotoxin production to occur. The number of spores and the amount of enterotoxin produced are measured at the end of spore induction.

<p>In addition genetic studies will be performed on all strains of C. perfringens to see if the heating had any effect on the gene that encodes enterotoxin.

More information

C. perfringens is a common cause of food poisoning usually involving foods such as meat or poultry that have been stored incorrectly after cooking or reheated insufficiently.

<p>Such practices allow the organism to grow to high levels and when the food is eaten the bacteria produce a toxin in the human gut which causes the disease symptoms of diarrhoea, severe stomach pain and nausea.

<p>The illness develops 6-24 hours after eating food containing high numbers of C. perfringens and, although recovery normally occurs within 2 days, it can be serious in the elderly or very young.

<p>This type of food poisoning is most often associated with large scale catering such as occurs in residential homes, day care centres, canteens, restaurants, wedding receptions etc., where large volumes of foods are often cooked well ahead of serving and then reheated.

<p>The C. perfringens toxin is encoded by a toxin gene and this is usually present on the bacterial chromosome in those strains that cause food poisoning.

<p>C. perfringens food poisoning is caused by a toxin and currently there is little information about what affects toxin production by this microorganism.

<p>The overall aim of this project is to obtain data on the behaviour of a range of strains of C. perfringens in terms of their ability to produce toxin and subsequently cause food poisoning.

<p>The outcome of the research will increase our understanding of enterotoxin production in strains of C. perfringens.

<p>It will also provide information that could be used to predict the risks of toxigenic organisms causing food poisoning in particular situations and consequently there is the potential to generate strategies to minimise the risk for the population.

<p>The principal objectives of the project are to determine if heating and cooling regimes, similar to those used in the catering industry, affect the amount of toxin produced by C. perfringens and to try and identify particular heating and cooling practices that maximise toxin production by C. perfringens.

<p>Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="; target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.

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