Cultures of Clostridium botulinum types A, B, E and F, which are responsible for human botulism, fall into two groups with different characteristics unrelated to toxin type. These groups differ primarily with respect to proteolysis, but also have different somatic and spore antigens and DNA; the heat resistance of their spores, their growth at low temperatures and their salt tolerance also differ. All known type A strains are proteolytic and all type E strains are non proteolytic, but types B and F have some proteolytic and some nonproteolytic strains. Although proteolytic strains can activate their own toxins, nonproteolytic strains cannot do so and therefore require trypsinization for maximum toxicity. Proteolytic strains are unable to grow at temperatures below 10 C, but have relatively high salt tolerance and spores of high heat resistance. Nonproteolytic strains can grow at 3.3 C and have a lower salt tolerance; their spores have a much lower heat resistance than those of proteolytic strains.

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