Diversity in C. botulinum germination

4th November 2016

A new study has filled a gap in our knowledge of germination of Clostridium botulinum, one of the most dangerous causes of food poisoning.

Clostridium botulinum

Clostridium botulinum

C. botulinum bacteria produce a highly potent neurotoxin that if present in the body causes botulism, which often leads to paralysis and sometimes death. The tiniest amounts, less than a thousandth of a grain of salt, are enough to cause botulism, so great efforts have been made to prevent it getting into our food.

This new research, published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, reports on efforts to understand how C. botulinum spores germinate. This is a crucial step. C. botulinum exists throughout the environment as spores, which can commonly be found on raw food ingredients, but only cause botulism after the spores have germinated, leading to cells that multiply and start producing neurotoxin.

Dr Jason Brunt and colleagues compared the genomes of different C. botulinum species, and combined this information with experimental data on germination, to provide the first overview of the mechanisms these bacteria use to germinate. Their results show a diversity of mechanisms used, and that germination is caused by a variety of different stimuli. This will be valuable knowledge as we look to understand these bacteria, and develop improved ways of preventing growth within food.


Brunt J, van Vliet AHM, van den Bos F, Carter AT, Peck MW, Diversity of the Germination Apparatus in Clostridium botulinum Groups I, II, III, and IV, Frontiers in Microbiology

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