Pathobiology and diagnosis of clostridial hepatitis in animals

Mauricio A. Navarro, Francisco A. Uzal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Clostridia can cause hepatic damage in domestic livestock, and wild and laboratory animals. Clostridium novyi type B causes infectious necrotic hepatitis (INH) in sheep and less frequently in other species. Spores of C. novyi type B can be present in soil; after ingestion, they reach the liver via portal circulation where they persist in phagocytic cells. Following liver damage, frequently caused by migrating parasites, local anaerobic conditions allow germination of the clostridial spores and production of toxins. C. novyi type B alpha toxin causes necrotizing hepatitis and extensive edema, congestion, and hemorrhage in multiple organs. Clostridium haemolyticum causes bacillary hemoglobinuria (BH) in cattle, sheep, and rarely, horses. Beta toxin is the main virulence factor of C. haemolyticum, causing hepatic necrosis and hemolysis. Clostridium piliforme, the causal agent of Tyzzer disease (TD), is the only gram-negative and obligate intracellular pathogenic clostridia. TD occurs in multiple species, but it is more frequent in foals, lagomorphs, and laboratory animals. The mode of transmission is fecal–oral, with ingestion of spores from a fecal-contaminated environment. In affected animals, C. piliforme proliferates in the intestinal mucosa, resulting in necrosis, and then disseminates to the liver and other organs. Virulence factors for this microorganism have not been identified, to date. Given the peracute or acute nature of clostridial hepatitis in animals, treatment is rarely effective. However, INH and BH can be prevented, and should be controlled by vaccination and control of liver flukes. To date, no vaccine is available to prevent TD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • bacillary hemoglobinuria
  • black disease
  • Clostridium
  • hepatitis
  • infectious necrotic hepatitis
  • Tyzzer disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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