Clostridium perfringens type C and Clostridium difficile co-infection in foals

Francisco A Uzal, Santiago S Diab, Patricia C Blanchard, J. Moore, L. Anthenill, F. Shahriar, J. P. Garcia, J. G. Songer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Clostridium perfringens type C is one of the most important agents of enteric disease in newborn foals. Clostridium difficile is now recognized as an important cause of enterocolitis in horses of all ages. While infections by C. perfringens type C or C. difficile are frequently seen, we are not aware of any report describing combined infection by these two microorganisms in foals. We present here five cases of foal enterocolitis associated with C. difficile and C. perfringens type C infection. Five foals between one and seven days of age were submitted for necropsy examination to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory. The five animals had a clinical history of acute hemorrhagic diarrhea followed by death and none had received antimicrobials or been hospitalized. Postmortem examination revealed hemorrhagic and necrotizing entero-typhlo-colitis. Histologically, the mucosa of the small intestine and colon presented diffuse necrosis and hemorrhage and it was often covered by a pseudomembrane. Thrombosis was observed in submucosal and/or mucosal vessels. Immunohistochemistry of intestinal sections of all foals showed that many large bacilli in the sections were C. perfringens. C. perfringens beta toxin was detected by ELISA in intestinal content of all animals and C. difficile toxin A/B was detected in intestinal content of three animals. C. perfringens (identified as type C by PCR) was isolated from the intestinal content of three foals. C. difficile (typed as A +/B + by PCR) was isolated from the intestinal content in 3 out of the 5 cases. This report suggests a possible synergism of C. perfringens type C and C. difficile in foal enterocolitis. Because none of the foals had received antibiotic therapy, the predisposing factor, if any, for the C. difficile infection remains undetermined; it is possible that the C. perfringens infection acted as a predisposing factor for C. difficile and/or vice versa. This report also stresses the need to perform a complete diagnostic workup in all cases of foal digestive disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-402
Number of pages8
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - May 4 2012


  • Clostridium difficile
  • Clostridium perfringens type c
  • Colitis
  • Enteritis
  • Foals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • veterinary(all)


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