Journal of Undergraduate Research


hospital disinfectants, clostridium spores


Life Sciences


Microbiology and Molecular Biology


Clostridium is a genus of anaerobic spore-forming bacteria notable for causing human infections. C. difficile has an especially high impact, affecting roughly 453,000 individuals in the U.S. in 2011 (1). C. tetani and C. perfringens infections occur much less frequently, although they remain clinically important. Disinfecting objects contaminated with Clostridium is challenging, as Clostridium spores are resistant to extreme temperature, desiccation, and most chemicals (2, 3). Clostridium is also frequently found within soil, making it a likely contaminant on almost any piece of medical equipment (3).

Currently, the U.S. EPA only requires sporicidal disinfectant efficacy tests against C. sporogenes, a non-pathogenic Clostridium species, for use approval (4). To make a specific C. difficile claim, additional testing with C. difficile is required (5). However, Clostridium species are very different, and spores from different species may have different sensitivities to disinfection. As a result, current EPA guidelines might be leaving patients at risk to infections from less commonly studied Clostridium species, especially C. tetani and C. perfringens. Post-operative cases of C. tetani and C. perfringens infection have been reported, although they are much less common than hospital outbreaks of C. difficile infection (6, 7). Additional research is needed to determine whether current disinfectants adequately inactivate spores from those species.

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