Clostridium Sordelli: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Brekke Peterson Munks
In this lesson, we'll learn about a bacteria called Clostridium sordellii. We'll explore the diseases and symptoms it causes and examine how this bacteria can be treated.


Have you ever heard of Clostridium sordellii (C. sordellii)? The name sounds like a wonderful pasta dish, but it is anything but lovely. Discovered by Alfredo Sordellii in the 1920s, C. sordellii is a rare bacterium that lives where oxygen is not present, making it anaerobic. It is commonly found in soil, sewage and infected animals. It can also be found in the gastrointestinal tracts of humans or in the vagina and can cause disease in humans.

C. sordellii is a rod-shaped organism or bacillus that is gram-positive. What is gram-positive? It is a way to start to classify bacteria into groups so that scientists can study them and treat them. Gram-positive bacteria are known to have a very thick peptidoglycan layer in their cell walls, which is a form of defense when growing.

Gram positive and negative structure of cell walls in bacteria
Gram negative and positive structure

How Does a Person Get a Clostridium Sordellii Infection?

Movement of the bacteria from person to person is assumed to be due to poor hygiene conditions after using the restroom or touching a contaminated surface. This bacteria can enter the body through a surface wound or through intravenous drug use.

In addition, women nearing the end of pregnancy tend to have infections because the bacteria occurs in the vagina. This can be very detrimental to both mother and child if not caught and treated. Babies can become infected during birth. If these babies are not treated, death usually occurs within three days after birth. Mothers of these babies tend to come down with sepsis and can die quickly too.

Symptoms of Infection

Early or initial symptoms of infection include vomiting, nausea, stomach pain and diarrhea, similar to the flu, but no fever is associated with the C. sordellii infection. Mothers who have recently given birth will experience these symptoms shortly after delivery, and such symptoms can be followed by swelling, increased protein counts in the blood, along with an acidic body pH. In cases where mothers have not yet given birth and aren't feeling well, spontaneous abortion can occur.

Late symptoms are very serious and occur quickly after the early symptoms start. These symptoms include toxic shock syndrome, organ failure, extreme fluid retention and death of soft tissue in the body, resulting in death after increased heart rate.

Toxic shock example in a baby
Toxic Shock Example in Baby

People can become infected in a non-child birth setting, such as through trauma, infection entrance through a wound or surgery. This is also very serious since these individuals are usually immune-compromised already, and the rapid progression from early to late stage symptoms can be quick. Classical issues or symptoms of infection not associated with women or babies are similar to symptoms that are associated with childbirth. Dying of soft tissue in surgery or wound victims is very common.

Clostridium sordellii also causes pneumonia, arthritis or stiff joints, irritation of the stomach lining, bacteremia and sepsis. Bacteremia is a bacterial infection of the blood. Sepsis is when the body accumulates too many toxins and becomes toxic itself resulting in death if not treated.

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