Message Number: FHL11835 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Sukie Crandall
Date: 2010-07-16 17:42:24 UTC
Subject: [ferrethealth] Clostridium difficle and ferrets (???) (as opposed to Clostridium perfringens)
To: fhl <>, Ferret Mailing List <ferret-l@LISTSERV.FERRETMAILINGLIST.ORG>

I'll ask others (though some experts may be away) and I AM ASKING ON=20
THE FHL but right now it looks like the concern about C. difficile (as=20
opposed to C. perfringens) on the Ferret Mailing List for ferrets=20
MIGHT be misplaced (but exceptions happen as do discoveries and=20
bacterial mutations). I do not personally know how species specific=20
this bacterium is but many bacteria are quite species specific. I=20
have to ask some experts about that. Notice that ferrets CAN have C.=20
perfringens blooms but that they are rare AND that some Clostridium in=20
the feces is NORMAL. That is not to say that at least two of the=20
Clostridium toxins in ferrets are not dangerous when it happens=20
because when that does happen infection or toxin can be rapidly fatal.

Notice past VETERINARY EXPERT posts (but these are beginning to get a=20
bit old
so may or may not apply however the journal articles found do not=20
indicate a large threat at this time):
by ferret expert veterinary pathogist, Dr. Bruce Williams:
> I'm not a fan of diagnosing Clostridium in feces. Robust bacilli are=20
> always present in ferret feces, and there is no way to tell if they=20
> are pathogenic Clostridium or not. It is a common and valid test in=20
> birds, but not really in ferrets.
> Add this to the fact that clostridiosis is a rare disease in ferrets=20
> (once diagnosed in a group of blackfooted ferrets as the cause of=20
> gastric bloat), and I have to be a bit circumspect about this=20
> diagnosis.

Here is one way to HELP PREVENT infection by the Clostridium species=20
ferrets appear to USUALLY have when they get infection:
The vegetative stage cells can be killed by reaching temperatures of=20
140'F or higher, BUT cells which are in the spore stage can still=20
survive so the population of the organism is reduced, which is=20
certainly a help.

A PubMed search did not bring up anything specifically ferret (and see=20
my post the other day for some things to read) but see this mustelid=20
"cousin" article, what they looked for and more importantly what they=20

> Vet Res. 2010 Jan-Feb;41(1):1. Epub 2009 Sep 2.
> Enteric bacterial pathogen detection in southern sea otters (Enhydra=20
> lutris nereis) is associated with coastal urbanization and=20
> freshwater runoff.
> Miller MA, Byrne BA, Jang SS, Dodd EM, Dorfmeier E, Harris MD, Ames=20
> J, Paradies D, Worcester K, Jessup DA, Miller WA.
> California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Wildlife Veterinary=20
> Care and Research Center, 1451 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, CA 95060,=20
> USA.
> Abstract
> Although protected for nearly a century, California's sea otters=20
> have been slow to recover, in part due to exposure to fecally-
> associated protozoal pathogens like Toxoplasma gondii and=20
> Sarcocystis neurona. However, potential impacts from exposure to=20
> fecal bacteria have not been systematically explored. Using=20
> selective media, we examined feces from live and dead sea otters=20
> from California for specific enteric bacterial pathogens=20
> (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, C. difficile=20
> and Escherichia coli O157:H7), and pathogens endemic to the marine=20
> environment (Vibrio cholerae, V. parahaemolyticus and Plesiomonas=20
> shigelloides). We evaluated statistical associations between=20
> detection of these pathogens in otter feces and demographic or=20
> environmental risk factors for otter exposure, and found that dead=20
> otters were more likely to test positive for C. perfringens,=20
> Campylobacter and V. parahaemolyticus than were live otters. Otters=20
> from more urbanized coastlines and areas with high freshwater runoff=20
> (near outflows of rivers or streams) were more likely to test=20
> positive for one or more of these bacterial pathogens. Other risk=20
> factors for bacterial detection in otters included male gender and=20
> fecal samples collected during the rainy season when surface runoff=20
> is maximal. Similar risk factors were reported in prior studies of=20
> pathogen exposure for California otters and their invertebrate prey,=20
> suggesting that land-sea transfer and/or facilitation of pathogen=20
> survival in degraded coastal marine habitat may be impacting sea=20
> otter recovery. Because otters and humans share many of the same=20
> foods, our findings may also have implications for human health.
> PMID: 19720009 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]PMCID: PMC2769548Free=20
> PMC Article

Full text can be found at either

> Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2009;121(3-4):91-5.
> Clostridium difficile: a new zoonotic agent?
> Indra A, Lassnig H, Baliko N, Much P, Fiedler A, Huhulescu S,=20
> Allerberger F.
> Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, Institute of Medical=20
> Microbiology and Hygiene, National Reference Center for Clostridium=20
> difficile, Wien, Austria.
> Abstract
> Clostridium difficile is mainly considered a nosocomial pathogen=20
> associated with diarrhea and pseudomembranous colitis in=20
> hospitalized patients. Austrian hospitals reported 2761 cases of C.=20
> difficile infection (including 277 lethal outcomes) in 2007,=20
> compared with 777 cases (including 54 lethal outcomes) in 2003. The=20
> occurrence of community-acquired C. difficile infection is also=20
> increasingly reported. Recent studies have shown the occurrence of=20
> C. difficile in food and animals. The aim of the present study was=20
> to determine the occurrence of C. difficile in food and animals in=20
> Austria. Between March and July 2008, gut or fecal samples from 67=20
> cows, 61 pigs and 59 broiler chickens were collected at Austrian=20
> abattoirs. Between February and April 2008 meat samples (51 beef [25=20
> ground], 27 pork [17 ground] and 6 samples of chicken meat) were=20
> purchased at retail outlets. Of the 187 samples tested, eight=20
> yielded C. difficile: in cows 3/67 samples (4.5%) were positive, in=20
> pigs 2/61 (3.3%), in broiler chickens 3/59 (5%). Six of the eight=20
> isolates yielded toxigenic C. difficile (toxins A and B): 2/67 (3%)=20
> cow samples, 2/61 (3.3%) pig samples, 2/59 (3.4%) chicken samples.=20
> Genes for the binary toxin were detected in one of the two pig=20
> isolates, a PCR ribotype 126 strain. None of the 84 meat samples=20
> yielded C. difficile. The results of this Austrian study suggest=20
> that animal reservoirs are possible sources, via food, of human C.=20
> difficile infection.
> PMID: 19280132 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

> Clin Microbiol Infect. 2007 May;13(5):457-9. Epub 2007 Feb 28.
> Is Clostridium difficile-associated infection a potentially zoonotic=20
> and foodborne disease?
> Rupnik M.
> Abstract
> Clostridium difficile has received much attention in recent years=20
> because of the increased incidence and severity of nosocomial=20
> disease caused by this organism, but C. difficile-associated disease=20
> has also been reported in the community, and C. difficile is an=20
> emerging pathogen in animals. Early typing comparisons did not=20
> identify animals as an important source for human infection, but=20
> recent reports have shown a marked overlap between isolates from=20
> calves and humans, including two of the predominant outbreak types,=20
> 027 and 017. C. difficile has also been found in retail meat=20
> samples, suggesting that food could be involved in the transmission=20
> of C. difficile from animals to humans.
> PMID: 17331126 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Oh, and remember that cooking kills at least some types of Clostridia=20
(Maybe all types of Clostridia?) and if memory serves -- but no time=20
to check now but IF my memory serves sufficient cooking also destroys=20
the toxins (All Clostridium toxins or just botulism?). Yes, I have=20
questions that I don't have time to look into and you WILL find them=20
in my post! Read refs. I found
fast but you may find better ones if you just look, please.

Note that this is a different species of Clostridium:
> Schulman FY, Montali RJ, Hauer PJ. Gastroenteritis associated with=20
> Clostridium perfringens type A in black-footed ferrets (Mustela=20
> nigripes). Vet Pathol. 1993 May;30(3):308=96310.[PubMed]

Full article:

Oh and yes, ferrets DO get botulism which I believe is from=20
Clostridium toxin but am not sure if I will have time to look (all=20
species of Clostridium? some species of Clostridium?), BTW, and info=20
on that is in multiple vet texts. Ah:
> Vet Rec. 1973 Dec 1;93(22):576-7.
> Deaths in ferrets (Mustela putorius) due to Clostridium botulinum=20
> type C.
> Harrison SG, Borland ED.
> PMID: 4594379 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Also: (Shoot, I got so busy=20
adding info that I forget which portion involves that article so if it=20
jumps you to a different part of the discussion bear with my shortness=20
of time.)

Notice, too, that tetanus involves a type of Clostridium:

mentions a human hospital therapy dog with C. difficile, and includes=20
this in relation to the genus, Clostridium, in general:
> As infections with these bacteria are increasingly in the spotlight,=20
> it's likely that we'll see more of them due not only to a real=20
> increase, but also due to reporting bias (in other words, you're=20
> much more likely to find what you're looking for than what you=20
> aren't). However, surveillance can only tell us so much. Clostridia=20
> are notoriously difficult to work with, making a better=20
> understanding of the bacterium via genetic manipulation a slow=20
> process. However, vaccines are in the works for the emerging=20
> Clostridia species, as well as drugs that bind to the toxins=20
> produced by C. difficile, and the NIH is urging research submissions=20
> on Clostridium.

Now, notice that I DID purposely say "might" and among others (like=20
the human hospital pet therapy poodle) this illustrates why I did that:
as does
which includes:
> So, is C. difficile an emerging zoonosis

> ? The answer is: we don=92t know yet. CDC will continue to=20
> collaborate with various experts in food safety and veterinary=20
> medicine to identify research needs and learn more about C.=20
> difficile infection in foods. Our scientists are also working=20
> closely with USDA

> =96 the government agency responsible for regulating the safety of=20
> meat =96 and sharing emerging information as it becomes available.

Here is one way to REDUCE THE RISK of infection by the Clostridium=20
species ferrets appear to USUALLY have when they get infection:
> Clostridium perfringens is a Gram-positive bacterial pathogen that=20
> has the capability of forming an endospore. The dormant spores can=20
> change to potentially harmful vegetative cells if exposed to cooking=20
> temperatures and allowed to stand at temperatures between 41=B0F and=20
> 120=B0F, especially the temperature range of 70=B0F=96120=B0F. Clostridiu=
> perfringens vegetative cells are killed in foods when the foods are=20
> cooked at 140=B0F or above. However, spores may still be present after =

> cooking. Spores can survive the cooking process. Clostridium=20
> perfringens can only thrive in conditions of very little or no=20
> oxygen: that is, it is an anaerobic organism. Clostridium=20
> perfringens will not grow at refrigeration or freezing temperatures.

See also:
which begins with
> Food poisoning caused by Clostridium perfringens may occur when=20
> foods such as meat or poultry are cooked and held without=20
> maintaining adequate heating or refrigeration before serving. The=20
> presence of small numbers of C. perfringens is not uncommon in raw=20
> meats, poultry, dehydrated soups and sauces, raw vegetables, and=20
> spices. Because the spores of some strains are resistant to=20
> temperatures as high as 100=B0C for more than l h, their presence in=20
> foods may be unavoidable. Furthermore, the oxygen level may be=20
> sufficiently reduced during cooking to permit growth of the=20
> clostridia. Spores that survive cooking may germinate and grow=20
> rapidly in foods that are inadequately refrigerated after cooking.=20
> Thus, when clinical and epidemiological evidence suggests that C.=20
> perfringens is the cause of a food poisoning outbreak, the presence=20
> of hundreds of thousands or more of these organisms per gram of food=20
> substantiates the diagnosis.

Wanted an easy answer? There may not be one for the question about=20
the risk rate of C. difficile in ferrets, but if you hear that your=20
ferret has a Clostridium infection FIRST make sure that what has been=20
seen is not just the normal level of intestinal Clostridium for=20
ferrets, and do NOT automatically assume that it is the species C.=20

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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