font size


Botulism

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Botulism facts

  • The botulism neurotoxin is one of the most potent, lethal substances known.
  • Botulism is a disease caused by this neurotoxin (specifically A, B, E, or F type neurotoxin).
  • The neurotoxin is produced by bacteria called Clostridium botulinum.
  • The neurotoxin paralyzes muscles and can be deadly.
  • There are three major types of botulism that differ in how they are acquired: food-borne, wound, and infant botulism.
  • Food-borne botulism is usually caused by eating contaminated home-canned foods.
  • Never taste-test food that may have gone bad.
  • Wound botulism is due to Clostridium bacteria infecting a wound and releasing the neurotoxin.
  • In infant botulism, the baby consumes spores of the bacteria which then grow in the baby's intestine and release the neurotoxin.
  • Honey can contain spores of the bacteria and should not be fed to babies less than 1 year of age.
  • Early food-borne and wound botulism can be treated with an antitoxin to block the action of the neurotoxin.
  • Botulism neurotoxin is listed as a potential biological weapon.
  • Botulism neurotoxin is used in dilute concentration to treat medical and cosmetic conditions.

What is botulism?

Botulism is a serious illness that causes flaccid paralysis of muscles. It is caused by a neurotoxin, generically called botulinum toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum (and rarely by C. butyricum and C. baratii). There are seven distinct neurotoxins (types A-G) that Clostridium botulinum produces, but types A, B, and E (and rarely F) are the most common that produce the flaccid paralysis in humans. The other types mainly cause disease in animals and birds, which also develop flaccid paralysis. Most Clostridium species produce only one type of neurotoxin; however, the effects of A, B, E, or F on humans are essentially the same. Botulism is not transmitted from person to person. Botulism develops if a person ingests the toxin (or rarely, if it is inhaled or injected) or if the Clostridium spp. organisms grow in the intestines or wounds in the body and toxin is released.

The recorded history of botulism begins in 1735, when the disease was first associated with German sausage (food-borne disease or food poisoning after eating sausage). In 1870, a German physician by the name of Muller derived the name botulism from the Latin word for sausage. Clostridium botulinum bacteria were first isolated in 1895, and a neurotoxin that it produces was isolated in 1944 by Dr. Edward Schantz. From1949 to the 1950s, the toxin (named BoNT A) was shown to block neuromuscular transmissions by blocking the release of acetylcholine from motor nerve endings. Botulism toxin(s) are some of the most toxic substances known to man; while the toxin has been considered for use as a biological weapon, it has also been used to treat many medical conditions. In 1980, Dr. Scott used the toxin to treat strabismus (deviation of the eye), and in December 1989, BoNT-A (BOTOX) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of strabismus, blepharospasm, and hemifacial spasm in young patients. The use of BOTOX to treat glabellar lines (wrinkles and frown lines) was approved in 2002 by the FDA for cosmetic improvements; the FDA has approved many additional uses (for example, underarm sweating, and muscle pain disorders) since 2002.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/7/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Botulism - Symptoms Question: What symptoms did you experience with botulism?
Botulism - Diagnosis Question: How was your botulism diagnosed?
Botulism - Causes Question: If you were diagnosed with botulism, what do you suspect caused your illness?
Botulism - Early Signs or Symptoms Question: What were the earliest signs or symptoms of botulism in you or someone you know?
Botulism - Cosmetic and Medical Treatments Question: Have you been treated with botulism neurotoxins for cosmetic or medical treatments? What are your concerns?
Botulism - Treatment Question: What kinds of medical treatment did you or someone you know receive for botulism?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/botulism/article.htm

Women's Health

Find out what women really need.

advertisement
advertisement
Use Pill Finder Find it Now See Interactions

Pill Identifier on RxList

  • quick, easy,
    pill identification

Find a Local Pharmacy

  • including 24 hour, pharmacies

Interaction Checker

  • Check potential drug interactions
Search the Medical Dictionary for Health Definitions & Medical Abbreviations

NIH talks about Ebola on WebMD