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Jeremy Rogers, Senior Veterinary Officer, PIRSA Biosecurity - Animal Health, Murray Bridge

Posted Flock & Herd August 2018


This is first report of Clostridium sordellii in goats in South Australia. Clostridium perfringens was also cultured from samples, so one or both organisms may have been responsible for the deaths in this case.

It appears that grazing and climatic conditions at this time may have produced a suitable environment for the survival and persistence of clostridial organisms, leading to this outbreak. Following this investigation, one more adult goat died, but the stock were moved to another grazing area and there were no further deaths.


Six adult dairy goats died suddenly over 3 weeks in April 2018. The deaths were characterised by a very rapid onset of symptoms including recumbency, shock and death within 24 hours without scouring. Initially grain or fungal toxicity was suspected in some cases, and some other goats did survive and slowly recovered after treatment with Scourban (Bayer Australia Ltd).

Necropsy findings

The adult doe had been dead for only an hour when necropsied (under car headlights). The goat was in good body condition with evidence of slight mucoid diarrhoea on the perineum. The main findings were in the mid ileum which had a reddened and congested external appearance and spectacular severe haemorrhagic / fibrinous enteritis internally. An initial diagnosis of Salmonella or Clostridial enteritis was made and swabs and fresh and fixed enteric samples collected.

Laboratory Findings

Histopathology of the intestines is suggestive of an infectious aetiology (e.g. Salmonella, Clostridium, Yersinia or Coccidia). Culture of the affected tissues has isolated Clostridium sordellii. Cl. sordellii has been reported to cause haemorrhagic enteritis and sudden death; the bacteria can also occur as a post-mortem invader.

Cl. perfringens was also cultured from samples in this case.


In another case involving adult goats in the same area in April this year, where Cl. perfringens was isolated, Dr Hanshaw (Gribbles Veterinary pathologist) noted:

“In goats, type D clostridial enterotoxaemia produces acute, subacute, or more chronic disease. The acute form occurs more frequently in young, unvaccinated animals and is similar to the acute disease in sheep. The subacute form is more frequently seen in adult goats that may or may not have been vaccinated, characterised by severe haemorrhagic diarrhoea, abdominal pain and shock, with terminal neurological signs. Vaccinated adult goats may have more chronic diarrhoea with fibrinonecrotic enterocolitis that may resemble salmonellosis.”

While this is my first experience with Cl. sordellii, the acute symptoms with apparently severe abdominal pain and lack of diarrhoea seem to be consistent with clostridial disease. Seasonal conditions in this area have been most unusual with much drier and warmer conditions over autumn followed by some sudden cold weather without rain and unusual cases of severe enteritis have been reported elsewhere in this area recently.

Cl. sordellii is mentioned in association with Cl perfringens in lambs1, 2. It has also been isolated in a case of malignant oedema in lambs in NSW3.

Goats on this property are routinely vaccinated with 6 in 1 vaccine according to manufacturer's recommendations, but unfortunately there is no vaccine produced in Australia that covers Cl. sordellii. Since the current cluster of severe, peracute fatal enteritis may be partially due to overcrowding and seasonal conditions; movement of susceptible animals to another location on farm may be helpful, if possible.


  1. Veterinary Medicine. Radostits, Gay, Blood & Hinchcliff 9th edition WB Saunders 2000
  2. Sudden death in sheep associated with Clostridium sordellii. CJ Lewis, RD Naylor Veterinary Record (1998) 142: 417-421
  3. Watt, B. Clostridium sordellii a traditional and emerging pathogen. Flock and Herd 2015 www.flockandherd.net.au


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