Botulism – What is it, Symptoms and Treatments!

Botulism – What it is, Symptoms and Treatments of this rare disease. In addition, Botulism is a disease caused by bacteria. The agent is Clostridium botulinum. This bacterium is found in soil and in foods of plant and animal origin.

It releases neurotoxins (toxins that attack neurons) that can be lethal, causing strong poisoning through its spores. Without early treatment, it can lead to paralysis, breathing difficulties and death.


There are three main types:

  • infant botulism
  • food botulism
  • wound botulism

Botulism poisoning is due to a toxin produced by a type of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. Although very common, these bacteria can only thrive in conditions where there is no oxygen. Certain food sources , such as homemade foods , provide potent breeding ground.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 145 of the cases are reported every year. About 3 to 5% of those with botulism poisoning die .

Causes: The CDC reports that 65 percent of cases occur in infants or children under 1 year of age. Infant botulism is typically theresult of exposure to contaminated soil, or eating foods that contain Botulism spores .

Honey and corn syrup are two examples of foods that can have contamination. These spores can grow inside the intestinal tract of infants, releasing Botulism toxin . Older children and adults have natural defenses that prevent bacteria from growing.

According to the CDC, about 15 percent of cases are foodborne. These can be homemade canned foods or commercially canned products that have not undergone proper processing. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Botulism toxin has been found in:

  • Low-acid preserved vegetables such as beets, spinach, mushrooms, and green beans
  • canned tuna
  • Fermented, smoked and salted fish
  • Meat products such as ham and sausage

Wound botulism accounts for 20 percent of all cases and is due to spores entering an open wound, according to the CDC. The occurrence rate for this type of Botulism has increased in recent years due to drug use, as spores are commonly present in heroin and cocaine.

This disease is not passed from person to person. A person must consume the spores or the toxin through food , or the toxin must enter a wound, to cause symptoms of Botulism poisoning .

Symptoms: Symptoms can appear from six hours to 10 days after the initial infection. On average, food-borne symptoms appear between 12 and 36 hours after consumption ofcontaminated food .

Early Signs of Infant Botulism Include:

  • Constipation
  • feeding difficulty
  • tiredness
  • irritability
  • Drooling
  • drooping eyelids
  • Loss of body control due to muscle weakness
  • paralysis

Signs of foodborne or wound-transmitted botulism include:

  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Facial weakness on both sides of the face
  • blurry vision
  • drooping eyelids
  • Breathing problems
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramping (only in food- borne botulism )
  • paralysis

Treatments: For foodborne and wound-borne disease, a doctor administers an antitoxin as soon as possible after diagnosis. In infants, a treatment known as Immunoglobulin Botulism blocks the actions of neurotoxins circulating in the blood.

Severe cases may require the use of a ventilator to help support breathing. Recovery can take weeks or months. Long-term therapy and rehabilitation may also be necessary in severe cases. There is a vaccine for Botulism , but it is not common as its effectiveness has not been fully tested and there are side effects.

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