Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Botulism facts
- What is botulism?
- What causes botulism?
- How many kinds of botulism are there?
- How serious is botulism?
- How does botulism neurotoxin affect the body?
- What kind of organism is Clostridium botulinum?
- How common is botulism?
- What are botulism symptoms and signs?
- How soon do symptoms appear?
- How is botulism diagnosed?
- How is botulism treated?
- What are complications from botulism?
- What is the prognosis (outcome) of people with botulism?
- Can botulism be prevented?
- Is botulism neurotoxin really considered to be a potential biological weapon?
- Why are botulism neurotoxins used as cosmetic treatments or treatments for some medical conditions?
How is botulism treated?
If diagnosed early, food-borne and wound botulism can be treated with an antitoxin that blocks the action of neurotoxin circulating in the blood. The trivalent antitoxin (effective against three neurotoxins: A, B, and E) is dispensed from quarantine stations by the U.S. government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The antitoxin can prevent the disorder from worsening, but recovery still takes many weeks. Another heptavalent antitoxin (effective against seven neurotoxins: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G) may be available from the U.S. Army or FEMA. Physicians may remove whatever contaminated food is still in the gut by inducing vomiting or by using enemas. Wounds should be treated, usually surgically, to remove the source of the toxin-producing bacteria. Good supportive care in a hospital is the mainstay of therapy for all kinds of botulism.
Antitoxin is not routinely given for the treatment of infant botulism; however, a new product that recently became available from the orphan drug program can be used to treat botulism in infants. The product is comprised of immune globulins that can be given intravenously to infants who have been diagnosed with infant botulism. The new treatment is named BabyBIG (Botulism Immune Globulin, given IV) and is only currently available from a special site. Call 510-231-7600 for specific information about this treatment.
The respiratory failure and paralysis that occur with severe botulism may require a patient to be on a breathing machine (ventilator) for weeks and may require intensive medical and nursing care. After several weeks, the paralysis slowly improves as axons in the nerves are regenerated.
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