What Is Botulism?

Foodborne botulism is a type of poisoning usually caused by ingesting the potent neurotoxin botulinum toxin produced in contaminated food. Because botulinum toxin affects muscle control throughout the body, botulinum toxin can cause many complications. Botulism is usually caused by bacteria that produce toxins in wounds or food. Wound botulism occurs when bacterial spores contaminate a wound and release toxins.

Botulism in infants under one year of age has been linked to ingestion of botulinum spores from the environment or from certain foods, such as honey. Botulinum toxin spores can grow in a baby’s gut, releasing botulinum toxin.


Intestinal botulism is caused by eating food, especially honey, dust, or soil containing Clostridium botulinum spores, which then multiply in the intestinal tract and release toxins. Most cases of botulism in humans are caused by improperly cooked, or canned foods in which the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria produces toxins. Botulism is a rare but serious disease caused by toxins from the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

Infants become infected with infantile botulism after ingesting bacterial spores, which then grow and multiply in their intestinal tract and produce toxins. Infant botulism is a disease that can occur when a child ingests (absorbs) toxins from a certain type of bacteria. Unlike food botulism, which is caused by the ingestion of pre-formed toxins from food, infant botulism occurs when infants ingest spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which germinate into bacteria that colonize in the intestines and release toxins. The bacteria Clostridium botulinum exists as spores in dirt and dust, but this form is inactive and does not produce toxins.

Foodborne botulism occurs when bacteria multiply in food and produce toxins that are not destroyed during the cooking process. Commercial canned food may contain the bacteria that causes botulism, but this is rare these days. Foodborne botulism occurs when people eat contaminated foods that already contain the toxin.


To speed up recovery from food botulism, doctors may induce vomiting or a bowel movement (using an enema) to remove contaminated food from the intestines. While intestinal botulism involves the consumption of the same organisms as botulism, foodborne botulism involves the consumption of toxins produced by bacteria in food. Intestinal botulism is most commonly associated with the consumption of raw honey. Intestinal botulism is rare and occurs when bacterial spores in soil or gravel enter an open wound and multiply, releasing toxins.

Inhalation botulism is rare and does not occur naturally, for example, it is associated with accidental or deliberate events (such as bioterrorism) that result in the release of toxins in aerosols. In the case of bioterrorism, deliberately exposed people who inhale the toxin or consume the toxin with contaminated food or water may develop botulism. Wound botulism rarely occurs after traumatic injuries associated with soil contamination, or possibly after surgery. Botulism (or botulism poisoning) is a rare but very serious disease transmitted through food, contact with contaminated soil, or through an open wound.

Botulism is a rare but serious disease caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves. Primarily food poisoning, human botulism can also be caused by C. botulinum intestinal infection in children, wound infections, and inhalation. There are 7 different forms of botulinum toxin, types A-G. Four of these (types A, B, E, and rarely F) cause botulism in humans.


A person must ingest the spores or toxin through food, or the botulinum toxin must enter a wound to cause the symptoms of botulism. C. botulinum spores are heat-resistant, and toxins produced by bacteria grown within the spores under anaerobic conditions are destroyed by boiling (eg, internal temperature above 85°C for 5 minutes or more). While the vegetative form of Clostridium botulinum is destroyed by boiling, the spores themselves are not killed at temperatures reached by normal boiling at sea level pressure, allowing them to grow freely and again when boiled Toxins are produced. The conditions are right. The danger occurs when its spores germinate and produce new bacteria.

Foodborne botulism can be prevented by inactivating the bacterium and its spores in heat-sterilized (eg, inverted) or canned foods, or by inhibiting bacterial growth and toxin formation in other foods. The spores are not killed by boiling, but botulism is rare because the production of botulinum toxin from C. botulinum spores requires special and rarely obtained conditions, including an anaerobic environment of low salt, low acidity, and low sugar content at room temperature. Although the Clostridium botulinum bacterium is found worldwide in soil and sediment where it does not cause problems, the bacterium can enter the body through cuts, or it can multiply and produce strong nerve toxins in foods that have not been properly prepared, preserved, or canned.

Symptoms of Botulism After exposure to botulinum or botulinum toxin, the time it takes for symptoms to appear can vary from hours to days. If infant botulism is associated with foods such as honey, the problem usually occurs within 18 to 36 hours of the toxin entering the infant’s body. One way to reduce your baby’s risk of botulism is to not give your child honey or processed foods that contain honey until they are one year old. Adult intestinal colonization is a rare form of botulism that occurs when bacteria colonize an adult’s digestive tract.


A drug called a botulinum antitoxin is the only effective treatment for foodborne and wound botulism. In rare cases of serious side effects, such as muscle paralysis beyond the treated area, botulinum toxin is medically indicated.

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