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Int J Med Microbiol. 2000 Oct;290(4-5):497-502.

The pathogenesis of clostridial myonecrosis.

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Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Infectious Diseases Section, Boise, ID 83702, USA.


These pieces of evidence can be assimilated into a molecular and cellular model of pathogenesis which is initiated by direct toxin effects upon venous capillary endothelial cell function, leading to expression of pro-inflammatory mediators and adhesion molecules, and initiation of platelet aggregation. Toxin-induced hyperadhesion of leukocytes (see above section) with enhanced respiratory burst activity (due to toxins directly or to toxin-induced IL-8 or PAF synthesis by host cells) and toxin-induced chemotaxis deficits could result in neutrophil-mediated vascular injury. Direct toxin-induced cytopathic effects on EC may also contribute to vascular abnormalities associated with gas gangrene. Over prolonged incubation periods, PLC at sublytic concentrations causes EC to undergo profound shape changes similar to those described following prolonged TNF or interferon gamma exposure. In vivo, conversion of EC to this fibroblastoid morphology could contribute to the localized vascular leakage and massive swelling observed clinically with this infection. Similarly, the direct cytotoxicity of PFO could disrupt endothelial integrity and contribute to progressive edema both locally and systemically. Thus, via the mechanisms outlined above, both PLC and PFO may cause local, regional and systemic vascular dysfunction. For instance, local absorption of exotoxins within the capillary beds could affect the physiological function of the endothelium lining the postcapillary venules, resulting in impairment of phagocyte delivery at the site of infection. Toxin-induced endothelial dysfunction and microvascular injury could also cause loss of albumin, electrolytes, and water into the interstitial space resulting in marked localized edema. These events, combined with intravascular platelet aggregation and leukostasis, would increase venous pressures and favor further loss of fluid and protein in the distal capillary bed. Ultimately, a reduced arteriolar flow would impair oxygen delivery thereby attenuating phagocyte oxidative killing and facilitating anaerobic glycolysis of muscle tissue. The resultant drop in tissue pH, together with reduced oxygen tension, might further decrease the redox potential of viable tissues to a point suitable for growth of this anaerobic bacillus. As infection progresses and additional toxin is absorbed, larger venous channels would become affected, causing regional vascular compromise, increased compartment pressures and rapid anoxic necrosis of large muscle groups. When toxins reach arterial circulation, systemic shock and multiorgan failure rapidly ensue, and death is common.

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