Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Botulism

Botulism from food is a dangerous, possibly lethal illness. However, it is not very common. It is an intoxication that is typically brought on by ingesting powerful neurotoxins called botulinum toxins that are produced in tainted foods. Botulism cannot be transmitted from one person to another.

In the absence of oxygen, the heat-resistant, widely dispersed spores produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum germinate, develop, and then discharge toxins. Botulinum toxin comes in seven different kinds, A–G.

Human botulism is brought on by four of them (types A, B, E, and occasionally F). Other mammals, birds, and fish can become ill from types C, D, and E.

Types of Botulism/Causes

Botulism comes in a variety of forms. Foodborne botulism, infant botulism, and wound botulism are the most prevalent types. Other uncommon types of botulism include iatrogenic and adult intestinal toxemia.

Foodborne botulism

When you consume foods contaminated with Clostridium botulinum spores, foodborne botulism may result. Bacteria can flourish in improperly stored food. Toxins are released into the meal as the bacteria multiply.

When homemade canned foods are inadequately preserved or kept, foodborne botulism frequently occurs. Botulism can also be brought on by inadequately canned store-bought food, though this is unusual. Foodborne botulism can also come from:

  1. herbally infused oils.
  2. cooked potatoes in aluminum foil
  3. cheese sauces in cans.
  4. packaged garlic.
  5. tomatoes in a can.
  6. carrot nectar.
  7. Foods kept warm or left unrefrigerated for too long

Infant botulism

When Clostridium botulinum spores are consumed, botulism in infants can happen. Your baby’s intestines are where the spores develop and release the toxin. Sometimes the origin of the spores is unknown. However, they are typically found in dust and soil. Your infant can breathe in the mud and dust when they become airborne.

Honey may also contain spores. In healthy older children and adults, ingesting botulinum spores does not result in botulism. However, infants under the age of a year experience the release of the toxin for unexplained reasons. Because of this, medical professionals advise against giving honey to infants until they are at least one year old.

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Wound Botulism

When Clostridium botulinum spores enter a wound, wound botulism can form. The spores can develop and release toxins into your circulation when they enter a wound.

People who inject narcotics into their veins with needles are most frequently affected by wound botulism. Rarely, it may also appear following surgery or a catastrophic injury.

Iatrogenic botulism

When you receive an excessive amount of botulinum toxin (Botox) injections, Iatrogenic botulism can happen. A very diluted and refined version of Clostridium botulinum is used in Botox. Botulinum toxin treatments may be used to cure wrinkles or other cosmetic issues. Or you might get them for medical conditions like migraines.
Botulism caused by Botox is quite uncommon. However, you should only receive injections of botulinum toxin from a qualified medical specialist. They’ll be able to give you the right amount in a safe manner.

Adult intestinal toxemia botulism

intestinal toxemia in adults Intestinal colonization in adults is another name for botulism. When Clostridium botulinum spores enter your intestines, they can cause an extremely rare type of botulism. Similar to how they do in young children, the spores multiply and release toxins. You may be more susceptible to this type of botulism if you suffer from a major medical condition that has an impact on your digestive system.


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After the initial infection, symptoms of botulism can arise anywhere between six hours and ten days later. Between 12 and 36 hours after eating tainted food, symptoms of newborn and foodborne botulism typically start to manifest. Infant botulism symptoms can include:

  1. constipation
  2. a challenge feeding fatigue
  3. irritability
  4. drooling
  5. feeble crying, drooping eyes, loss of head control, and clumsy motions because of paralysis
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Older children and adults who develop symptoms of botulism typically start experiencing them in their facial, eye, and throat muscles. In the absence of treatment, symptoms may extend to other body areas. Following consumption of botulinum spores, symptoms may occur a few hours to many days later. These signs include:

  1. sagging eyelids (ptosis).
  2. eyesight that is doubled or hazy.
  3. mouth ache (xerostomia).
  4. Unsteady speaking.
  5. Having trouble swallowing (dysphagia).
  6. trouble breathing
  7. a loss of strength in your arms or legs.
  8. vomiting and nauseous.


A clinical history, physical examination, and laboratory confirmation are typically used to make a diagnosis. These steps may include showing the presence of botulinum toxin in serum, feces, or food, or growing C. botulinum cultures from stool, wounds, or food. Sometimes botulism is misdiagnosed because it is frequently mistaken for a stroke, Guillain-Barré syndrome, or myasthenia gravis.

As soon as a clinical diagnosis is made, antitoxin should be given. Mortality rates can be decreased by early administration. The most important supportive care for severe instances of botulism is mechanical breathing, which may be necessary for weeks or even months. There is no need for antibiotics (except in the case of wound botulism). Although there is a vaccination to prevent botulism, it is rarely used because its usefulness has not been thoroughly studied and it has shown unfavorable side effects.


The best practices for food preparation, particularly during heating/sterilization and hygiene, provide the foundation for preventing foodborne botulism. By inactivating the bacterium and its spores in heat-sterilized (for example, retorted) or canned items, or by preventing bacterial growth and toxin generation in other products, foodborne botulism may be avoided. Boiling can kill bacteria’s vegetative phases, however, even after several hours of boiling, some spores can still survive. However, extremely high-temperature processes, like commercial canning, can kill the spores. Commercial heat pasteurization (including vacuum-packed pasteurized products and hot-smoked products) could not be adequate to completely eradicate spores, so the safety of these products must be based on limiting the development of bacteria and the creation of toxins. Temperatures suitable for refrigeration along with a salty or acidic environment will stop bacteria from growing and toxins from developing.

Most of the time, botulism is simple to avoid. Utilizing the following precautions will lower your risk: When home canning food, use the right procedures to ensure that the heat and acid levels are appropriate.

  1. Any fermented fish or other aquatic game dishes should be avoided.
  2. Cans of prepared food that are bulging or open should be thrown away.
  3. Garlic and herb-infused oils should be kept cold.
  4. Aluminum foil-covered potatoes that have been cooked can produce an oxygen-liberated setting where botulism can flourish. Keep these hot or put them in the fridge right away.
  5. Foods will lose their botulinum toxin after 10 minutes of boiling.
  6. In general, you should never provide honey or corn syrup to a baby since they could contain Clostridium botulinum spores.
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