Five people are affected by a recent case of botulism, with one woman still fighting for her life in the ICU. This latest case of botulism was traced back to a nacho cheese from a gas station, but how exactly does one get sick with botulism?
Botulism is a serious illness that is caused by a nerve toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium butyricum, and Clostridium baratii. Botulinum is the most acutely lethal toxin known as it can block nerve functions that could lead to respiratory and muscular paralysis.
Symptoms And Treatment
The earliest symptoms of botulism include fatigue, vertigo, blurred vision, vomiting, difficulty speaking, diarrhea, and a possible abdominal swelling. Weakness of the neck and arms, as well as the muscles of the lower body and respiratory muscles, may also be experienced.
These symptoms usually occur 12 to 36 hours after exposure and are not caused by the bacteria itself but by the toxins they produce.
Antitoxins must be administered as soon as possible after the diagnosis, though patients with severe cases may require mechanical ventilation. There is a vaccine for botulism; however, its effectiveness and negative side effects have not been fully evaluated.
Foodborne botulism occurs when an individual consumes food that is contaminated with botulinum toxin. Common sources of food-borne botulism are improperly canned, preserved of fermented homemade food.
Such is the case in the 2015 botulism outbreak that claimed one life after 77 people at a potluck consumed a meal that was made with home-canned potatoes. At the wake of the outbreak, the CDC released tips on proper home canning to prevent botulism including the use of proper technique and equipment.
Wound botulism occurs when an open wound is infected with spores of the bacteria which then release their toxins inside the body. This form of botulism is more often associated with substance abuse.
Infant botulism is different from food-borne botulism in a way that it is caused by the ingestion of pre-formed toxins in food. Often affected are infants below six months of age because they have not yet developed the necessary natural defenses in the gut that prevent the spores from colonizing and releasing toxins in the gut. Parents are warned to not give honey to infants younger than one year as spore-contaminated honey is the most often associated with infant botulism.
Symptoms include constipation, loss of head control, loss of appetite, weakness, and an altered cry.
Adult Intestinal Toxemia
Adult intestinal toxemia is basically the adult form of infant botulism, where spores get into an adult's intestines and produce the toxin from there. There is no known cause yet for adult intestinal toxemia, but people with gut-related illnesses are more likely to get sick.
C. botulinum is the same bacterium that is used to make Botox, though what they use for the cosmetic pharmaceutical is a diluted A neurotoxin. It is usually well-tolerated by the body, but iatrogenic botulism can occur if too much of the toxin is injected into the body.
Botulism is a rare illness that cannot be transmitted from person to person.