J Clin Pathol 58:301-307 doi:10.1136/jcp.2004.022830
  • Original article

Clostridium bacteraemia characterised by 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing

  1. P C Y Woo,
  2. S K P Lau,
  3. K-m Chan,
  4. A M Y Fung,
  5. B S F Tang,
  6. K-y Yuen
  1. Department of Microbiology, University Pathology Building, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr K-y Yuen
 Department of Microbiology, University of Hong Kong, University Pathology Building, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China;
  • Accepted 19 October 2004


Background: Owing to problems in accurate species identification of the diverse genus clostridium, the epidemiology and pathogenicity of many species are not fully understood. Moreover, previous studies on clostridium bacteraemia have been limited and relied only on phenotypic species identification.

Aims: To characterise the epidemiology, disease spectrum, and outcome of clostridium bacteraemia using 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequencing.

Method: During a four year period (1998–2001), all cases of clostridium bacteraemia were prospectively studied and all “non-perfringens” clostridium isolates identified to the species level by 16S rRNA gene sequencing.

Results: Fifty one blood culture isolates were identified as Clostridium perfringens and 17 belonged to 11 other clostridium species. The first case of C disporicum infection and two cases of clostridium bacteraemia in children with intussusception were also described. Of the 68 clostridium isolates from 68 different patients, 38 were associated with clinically relevant bacteraemia. The gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary tracts were common sites of both underlying disease and portal of entry in these patients. Clostridium perfringens accounted for 79% of all clinically relevant bacteraemia, with the remainder caused by a diversity of species. The attributable mortality rate of clinically relevant clostridium bacteraemia was 29%. Younger age and underlying gastrointestinal/hepatobiliary tract disease were associated with mortality (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Patients with clinically relevant clostridium bacteraemia should be investigated for the presence of underlying disease processes in the gastrointestinal or hepatobiliary tracts. 16S rRNA gene analysis will continue to be useful in further understanding the pathogenicity of various clostridium species.