[en] Non-enterotoxigenic type A Clostridium perfringens are associated with bovine enterotoxaemia, but the alpha toxin is not regarded as responsible for the production of typical lesions of necrotic and haemorrhagic enteritis. The purpose of this study was to investigate the putative role of the more recently described beta2 toxin. Seven hundred and fourteen non-enterotoxigenic type A C. perfringens isolated from 133 calves with lesions of enterotoxaemia and high clostridial cell counts (study population) and 386 isolated from a control population of 87 calves were tested by a colony hybridisation assay for the beta2 toxin. Two hundred and eighteen (31%) C perfringens isolated from 83 calves (62%) of the study population and 113 (29%) C. perfringens isolated from 51 calves (59%) of the control population tested positive with the beta2 probe. Pure and mixed cultures of four C perfringens (one alpha+beta2+, one alpha+enterotoxin-1 and two alpha+) were tested in the ligated loop assay in one calf. Macroscopic haemorrhages of the intestinal wall, necrosis and haemorrhages of the intestinal content, and microscopic lesions of necrosis and polymorphonuclear and mononuclear cell infiltration of the intestinal villi were more pronounced in loops inoculated with the a and beta2-toxigenic C. perfringens isolate. These results suggest in vivo synergistic role of the alpha and beta2 toxins in the production of necrotic and haemorrhagic lesions of the small intestine in cases of bovine enterotoxaemia. However, isolation of beta2-toxigenic C. perfringens does not confirm the clinical diagnosis of bovine enterotoxaemia and a clostridial cell counts must still be performed. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.