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Malignant Edema

Malignant edema is an acute, generally fatal toxemia of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and pigs usually caused by Clostridium septicum , often accompanied by other clostridial species. Other clostridia implicated in wound infections include C chauvoei , C perfringens , C novyi , and C sordellii . The disease occurs worldwide. A similar infection in humans is not uncommon.

Swollen lymph node due to Malignant Edema on the outside of a dairy cow.

Additional information

Malignant edema is a bacterial disease of cattle, sheep, goats, swine, horses and poultry. It is caused by Clostridium septicum and is manifested by wound infection. The infection is commonly soil-borne. Deep wounds associated with trauma provide ideal condition for the growth of this agent.

Malignant edema, pig. Note the swelling in the neck as well as the blue color typical of gangrene. Courtesy of the Department of Pathobiology, University of Guelph
General signs, such as anorexia, intoxication, and high fever, as well as local lesions, develop within a few hours to a few days after predisposing injury. The local lesions are soft swellings that pit on pressure and extend rapidly because of the formation of large quantities of exudate that infiltrates the subcutaneous and intramuscular connective tissue of the affected areas. The muscle in such areas is dark brown to black. Accumulations of gas are uncommon. Severe edema of the head of rams develops after infection of wounds inflicted by fighting. Malignant edema associated with lacerations of the vulva at parturition is characterized by marked edema of the vulva, severe toxemia, and death in 24-48 hr.
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