Botulism, foodborne, wound and infant
June 7 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness (leading to paralysis) caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. In the United States more than a hundred cases of botulism are reported each year. Of these, approximately 25% are foodborne, 72% are infant botulism, and the rest are wound botulism. Outbreaks of foodborne botulism involving two or more persons occur most years and are usually caused by eating contaminated home-canned foods. The number of cases of foodborne and infant botulism has changed little in recent years, but wound botulism has increased because of the use of black-tar heroin, especially in California.
   Botulism can cause nausea, fatigue, double vision, paralysis and respiratory failure. In severe cases, the toxin can be fatal.


Botulism Bacteria toxin
Botulism commonly occurs when the anaerobic, gram-positive bacterium Clostridium botulinum, under suitable conditions, produces botulinum neurotoxins. Named A-F, these toxins are the immediate causative agent of the clinical symptoms of symmetrical, descending neurological deficits, including respiratory muscle paralysis.


There are several kinds of botulism.

Foodborne botulism is a very serious condition
Foodborne botulism is caused by eating foods that contain the botulism toxin. In March, 2006, Thailand had one of the world's worst outbreaks of the muscle-paralyzing disease when 160 villagers fell ill after eating contaminated bamboo shoots during a festival in the northern province of Nan. More than 100 are in hospital, including 42 who needed respirators after they became too weak to breathe on their own.


Wound botulism can lead to sepsis
Wound botulism is caused by toxin produced from a wound infected with Clostridium botulinum.


Infant Botulism can be fatal
Infant botulism is caused by consuming the spores of the botulinum bacteria, which then grow in the intestines and release toxin. All forms of botulism can be fatal and are considered medical emergencies. Foodborne botulism can be especially dangerous because many people can be poisoned by eating a contaminated food.