Death of a neonatal lamb due to Clostridium perfringens type B in New Zealand

J. S. Munday, H. Bentall, D. Aberdein, M. Navarro, F. A. Uzal, S. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Case history and clinical findings: A flock of 20 sheep was kept within three paddocks on a single property. None of the animals in the flock had been vaccinated against any disease for at least three years. Abdominal bloating and haemorrhagic diarrhoea were observed in Lamb 1 at 24 hours-of-age. The lamb subsequently died within an hour of the onset of clinical signs. Lamb 2 was 3-days-old when observed to be recumbent with opisthotonus. The lamb was treated with dextrose, vitamins B1 and B12, and penicillin G, but died 4 hours later. Pathological findings: Examination of Lamb 1 revealed markedly increased gas within the peritoneum and within dilated loops of intestine. The intestines were dark red and contained large quantities of haemorrhagic fluid. Histology of the intestines revealed peracute mucosal necrosis with minimal accompanying inflammation. The intestinal lumen contained cell debris, haemorrhage, and myriad large Gram-positive bacilli. The intestines of Lamb 2 did not appear bloated or reddened. However, multiple fibrin clots were visible within the pericardial sac. Histopathological examination revealed small foci of necrosis within the mucosa of the distal intestine. The necrotic foci were often associated with large numbers of large Gram-positive bacilli. Immunohistochemsitry and molecular biology: Intestinal samples from Lamb 1 were processed for Clostridium perfringens immunohistochemistry, which revealed large numbers of intralesional, positively immunostained rods. Fragments corresponding to the expected sizes for genes encoding alpha, beta, and epsilon C. perfringens typing toxins were amplified by PCR from DNA extracted from formalin-fixed sections of intestine. Diagnosis: Lamb dysentery due to C. perfringens type B. Clinical relevance:C. perfringens bacteria have a worldwide distribution, but disease due to C. perfringens type B has only been diagnosed in a small number of countries and has never been reported in New Zealand or Australia. C. perfringens type B produce both beta toxin and epsilon toxins, therefore both haemorrhagic enteritis and systemic vascular damage can develop. As many animals are exposed to C. perfringens without developing disease, there must be additional unknown factors that resulted in disease in these particular sheep. Vaccines that specifically protect against C. perfringens type B are available and may be recommended for use in smaller non-commercial flocks, as in the present case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNew Zealand Veterinary Journal
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • beta toxin
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • epsilon toxin
  • lamb
  • Lamb dysentery
  • neonatal enteritis
  • PCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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