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Anaerobe. 2007 Jun-Aug;13(3-4):161-5. Epub 2007 Mar 12.

Clostridium tertium isolated from gas gangrene wound; misidentified as Lactobacillus spp initially due to aerotolerant feature.

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Infectious Diseases Section, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA.


Clostridium tertium has been increasingly reported as a human pathogen. This organism is an aerotolerant Gram-positive rod that is often mistaken for other organisms, such as Lactobacillus or Bacillus species. We describe a case of a patient with a history of intravenous drug use presenting to UCLA-Olive View Medical Center with gas gangrene of both upper extremities. The organism was initially misidentified as a Lactobacillus species on aerobic culture plates. However, terminal spore formation was detected in this isolate on a sub-cultured anaerobic culture plate and this isolate was confirmed as C. tertium biochemically and genetically by 16S rDNA sequencing. Additional DNA cloning libraries made from the formalin-fixed specimen revealed Peptoniphilus species and an uncultured Clostridium clone, but not C. tertium. C. tertium might be a causative organism of gas-producing myonecrosis but such an association has never been described. Clinicians should be aware of the phenomenon of aerotolerance of some anaerobes and need to clarify the identification of organisms if the clinical picture does not fit the isolated organism.

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