Clostridium perfringens is commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract of animals and humans and continues to cause one of the most prevalent foodborne diseases in man.
Material and Methods
A total of 355 samples were examined for the occurrence of C. perfringens: rectal swabs from cattle, sheep, and goats, fresh stool samples from diarrhoea sufferers having been in contact with these animals, irrigation water and soil samples from the husbandry sites, and pre-harvesting fresh produce from farms irrigated with the sampled water. All samples were collected from Cairo and Giza governorates, Egypt. PCR analysis was carried out with positive isolates using the α-toxin gene. Sequence analysis of the gene of C. perfringens isolates was performed using the neighbour-joining approach. Bootstrap analysis was executed with 1,000 resamplings.
174 C. perfringens strains were isolated with a 49.01% prevalence. The highest prevalence of C. perfringens in apparently healthy animals was found in sheep (65.45%) followed by goats (58%), buffaloes (55%), and cattle (47.1%). Its prevalence in humans being in contact with these animals was 47.5%. The bacterium’s isolation from the soil and irrigation water was achieved in 40% and 31.7% of samples, respectively, posing a risk, particularly when the water and soil contact food in the field, shown by the fresh produce isolation of 40%. A significant relationship between the prevalence of C. perfringens in animal and environmental samples was identified (P < 0.05). A significant relationship was identified neither between animal species and C. perfringens prevalence, nor between the environmental source and C. perfringens prevalence (P > 0.05). All isolates were positive for the α-toxin gene by PCR. The sequence analysis and the phylogenetic relationship of the α-toxin genes from different samples revealed that C. perfringens from faeces of apparently healthy cattle, buffaloes, sheep, and goats is a significant threat in places where it can contaminate the soil and water. In addition, the sequence of C. perfringens from humans suffering from diarrhoea was found in the same cluster with the sequence from cows, goats, and sheep.
The role of apparently healthy animals in transmitting C. perfringens to humans, either through being in direct or indirect contact via water or soil in the cultivation of vegetables and fruits, was demonstrated.