Foodborne Botulism

August 14 20:22 2019 Print This Article

Foodborne botulism is a serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. (A toxin is a poison that is released by some bacteria and viruses). It is caused by eating foods that contain the botulism toxin. It often involves improperly processed home canned foods. Botulism in infants under one year of age has been associated with the intake of contaminated honey. Wound botulism occurs when Clostridium botulinum spores contaminate a wound and produce toxin.

There are seven recognized types of botulism. Four of these (types A, B, E and rarely F) cause human botulism. Types C, D and E cause illness in mammals, birds and fish. The sporulated form of the bacterium is commonly found in soils, aquatic sediments and fish. The spores are heat-resistant. Under anaerobic conditions, botulinum spores can germinate, and the bacterium grow and produce the toxin. Ingestion of the toxin present in improperly prepared food is dangerous and may be fatal. Botulism is mainly a foodborne intoxication but it can also be transmitted through wound infections or intestinal infection in infants.

There are three kinds of botulism: foodborne, infant and wound. Foodborne botulism occurs when foods that contain the botulism toxin are ingested. Wound botulism is caused by toxin produced from a wound infected with Clostridium botulinum. Infants and adults develop a type of botulism by consuming the spores of the botulinum bacteria, which then grow in the intestines and release toxin.

Causes of Foodborne Botulism

Botulism is caused by toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. This toxin affects your nerves and, if untreated, can cause paralysis and respiratory failure. C. botulinum toxin is one of the most powerful toxins known in nature. Exposure to the toxin, particularly in an aerosolized (spray) form, can be fatal. C. botulinum has been made into weapons by rogue states and is a focus of current efforts to counter bioterrorism.

Find common causes and risk factors of Foodborne Botulism:

  • The causes of food-borne botulism may be home-canned foods that are low in acid, like green beans, corn and beets.
  • The foods most commonly contaminated are home-canned vegetables, cured pork and ham, smoked or raw fish, and honey or corn syrup.
  • The most common cause of infant botulism is¬†eating honey or corn syrup.
  • A wound becomes infected with the bacteria (rare in the US). The toxin then travels to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.
  • If an infant swallows C botulinum spores, they will grow in the baby’s body and produce the toxin. Unlike adults and older children, infants become sick from toxin produced by bacteria growing in their own intestines.

Signs and Symptoms of Foodborne Botulism

Foodborne botulism typically begins with blurred or double vision, dry mouth and difficulty swallowing. Vomiting and diarrhea may be present early in the illness. The illness may progress to symmetrical flaccid (floppy) paralysis and may lead to difficulty in breathing.

Sign and symptoms may include the following:

  • Slurred speech.
  • Constipation.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Double vision and drooping eyelids.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dry mouth.
  • General weakness.
  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Sore throat.

Treatment for Foodborne Botulism

Treatment may include:

  • The goal of botulism treatment is to establish a clear airway, aid breathing, give botulinus anti-toxin, and provide supportive therapy.
  • If breathing difficulty develops, intubation (a tube inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea to provide an airway for oxygen) and mechanical ventilation are given.
  • In the case of botulism, patients should be hospitalized immediately and regularly monitored.
  • Patients suffering from wound botulism should receive equine antibiotics such as penicillin. If you’re having trouble breathing, you will probably need to use a ventilator.
  • Drugs that increase the amount of acetylcholine, such as pyridostigmine may be given.