Vaginal and Rectal Clostridium sordellii and Clostridium perfringens Presence Among Women in the United States

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To characterize the presence of Clostridium sordellii and Clostridium perfringens in the vagina and rectum, identify correlates of presence, and describe strain diversity and presence of key toxins.


We conducted an observational cohort study in which we screened a diverse cohort of reproductive-aged women in the United States up to three times using vaginal and rectal swabs analyzed by molecular and culture methods. We used multivariate regression models to explore predictors of presence. Strains were characterized by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and tested for known virulence factors by polymerase chain reaction assays.


Of 4,152 participants enrolled between 2010 and 2013, 3.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.9–4.0) were positive for C sordellii and 10.4% (95% CI 9.5–11.3) were positive for C perfringens at baseline. Among the 66% with follow-up data, 94.7% (95% CI 88.0–98.3) of those positive for C sordellii and 74.4% (95% CI 69.0–79.3) of those positive for C perfringens at baseline were negative at follow-up. At baseline, recent gynecologic surgery was associated with C sordellii presence, whereas a high body mass index was associated with C perfringens presence in adjusted models. Two of 238 C sordellii isolates contained the lethal toxin gene, and none contained the hemorrhagic toxin gene. Substantial strain diversity was observed in both species with few clusters and no dominant clones identified.


The relatively rare and transient nature of C sordellii and C perfringens presence in the vagina and rectum makes it inadvisable to use any screening or prophylactic approach to try to prevent clostridial infection.


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