Botulism is a potentially fatal disease most often caused by the anaerbic bacterium Clostridium botulinum. C. botulinum produces heat-resistant spores, which germinate and excrete toxins of which there are seven forms. For this reason, botulism is most often transmitted through contaminated food, such as poorly-preserved or canned meat, fish or vegetables. However, botulism can also be caused by wound infection, inhalation or infantile intestinal infection; these forms are less common.
The Botulinum toxin is one of the most powerful toxins known. It blocks the release of acetylcholine at neuromuscular junctions, resulting in paralysis. Early symptoms begin with fatigue and weakness, coupled with vertigo, ususally progressing to blurred vision and a dry mouth along with difficulty swallowing or speaking. Finally, the disease can lead to weakness in the neck and arms, followed by paralysis of the respiratory muscles and those of the lower body. Death can result due to difficulty breathing as respiratory muscles become paralysed.
- ↑ (2013) Botulism, [Online] Available: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs270/en/ (August 2013)
- ↑ Nigam, P. and Nigam, A. (2010) 'Botulinum toxin', Indian Journal of Dermatology, [Online] Available: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2856357/ (January-March 2010)
- ↑ http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs270/en/