Botulism is severe infectious disease caused by neurotoxin botulinum. An infectious bacterial species Clostridium botulinum release this toxin. Botulisms food poisoning is one common illness which may lead to severe and fatal results. Moreover, botulism often leads to paralysis if remain untreated and undiagnosed. Botulinum is a neurotoxin, which disrupts brain cells and their functioning. The resulting paralysis starts from neck and muscles and may affect respiratory system as well.


Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum. Clostridium botulinum is a pathogenic spore forming bacteria. It releases neurotoxin botulinum which cause botulism infection. The bacterial species is mainly present in soil, untreated water and canned food if stored for long time. The bacteria form spores which can resist harsh environmental conditions. This spore forming ability makes it capable of residing in food and water for long time.

Botulinum neurotoxin blocks the synaptic receptors of neurons. Blocking the cell signaling pathways and lack of nervous co-ordination results in muscular paralysis.

C.boutulinum food poisoning is one of the most common type. In year 2015, United States experienced the worst outbreak of botulinum food poisoning in last 40 years. The source was canned potatoes that were shared in potluck meal.

Interesting facts about botulinum toxin

Botulinum neurotoxin is highly lethal. The studies suggest that only one gram of this toxin can cause deaths of 1 million people. Considering this, we may consider that few kilograms of this toxin can eradicate all the living beings on earth.

Interestingly, us humans have found some useful applications of this toxin as well. For instance, as part of the medicines for cerebral palsy and some other diseases. The most commonly and popular use of botulinum toxin in is Botox treatment. Botox is a non-surgical cosmetic treatment. This is done to remove aging lines and wrinkles temporarily.

Botox treatment

The significance is that the toxin interrupts the brain to cell signaling pathways which, under normal conditions, cause cellular aging. Neurons and their cell signaling pathways depend on neurotransmitter molecules such as acetylecholine. This toxin blocks the neuron receptors for acetylcholine and thus the cell signaling as well.

Botulinum toxin blocks the cell signaling pathways

Interruption in this pathway kind of paralyzes and slows down the cellular aging process of the area where botulinum toxin is administrated via injection.


In case of food borne botulism, the symptoms are quite similar to food positing. These involve nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps within few hours of consuming contaminated food. The wound botulism affects the cranial or the spinal nerve first. Overall, all the types end up in paralysis of limbs and muscles. Also, in serve condition, the respiratory spam or paralysis occurs.

botulism symptoms

The usual symptoms are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Eyelid drooping
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Flat facial feature and muscles
  • Slow reflexes
  • Muscular cramps
  • Shortness of breath

As soon as you observe these symptoms, consult to your doctor. Delaying the first aid can result in severe complications of symptoms.

Types of botulism

The types of botulisms are according to the toxin presence in different sources.

1. Food borne botulism

This is also referred as botulism food poisoning. The canned food and untreated water are usually the source of botulinum toxin in this case.

2. Wound botulism

Open wounds and contaminated surgical instruments may spread this toxin or the bacteria itself to the body of person.

3. Infant and adult botulism

The infants may come in contact with botulism spores via canned food such as corn syrup. On the other hand, the bacteria may reside and colonize in intestines of adult person.

4. Latrogenic botulism

This is a condition which mainly occurs as a result of therapeutic malpractice. For instance, during the Botox treatment, the doctor may inject high concentrations of botulinum toxin.

Every case is an emergency. Delaying the medical aid results in severity of symptoms and may prove fatal.

Treatment options

The patients of botulism immediately receive an antitoxin to counter the effects of botulinum toxin. The antitoxin is Botulism immune globulin intravenous-human antitoxin. This is also known as BabyBIG and BIG-V.

Botulism antitoxin

Moreover, some patients may need ventilator treatment in case of respiratory spam. Similarly, the doctors treat wound botulism with antibiotic and cleaning the wound with aseptic treatment.

Prevention is better than cure….

Although there is treatment for botulism, the best way is preventive way. Here are some preventive tips:

  • Take all the measures of food safety Always cook food properly
  • Boil or filter water before use
  • Throw away canned food if you see any leakage or damage to can. This may have botulinum contamination.
  • Don’t give corn syrup and canned food to infants
  • Take proper care of wounds such as cover them properly and use recommended antibiotic to prevent bacterial colonization
  • Remember maintaining hygiene and taking all food safety measure is the key not only to prevent botulism but also other food borne microbes.




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