Study Sheds Light on Clostridium Botulinum Spore Germination

A newly published research study by scientists at the UK Institute of Food Research (IFR) has identified part of the mechanism by which the resistant endospores of the dangerous foodborne pathogen Clostridium botulinum (the cause of botulism) are able to germinate.

It is known that spore germination is initiated when certain small molecules (germinants) are recognised by a specific germinant receptors (GR) located in the inner membrane of the spore. The IFR researchers were able to identify two active GRs in the spores of Cl. botulinum, which respond to amino acid germinants and act in synergy, but are unable to function alone. Other GRs form a complex that seems to play a role in controlling the speed of germination.

The authors of the study say that understanding the germination mechanism of Cl. botulinum spores is essential if new control measures to prevent germination and subsequent toxin production by vegetative cells in food are to be developed. They suggest that it may be possible to prevent spore germination entirely, or force all the spores to germinate at once so that the less resistant vegetative cells can be easily inactivated.

The study is published in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens and can be found in full here.