Botulism
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Clostridium botulinum
stain of botulism
Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. There are three main kinds of botulism. Foodborne botulism is caused by eating foods that contain the botulism toxin. Wound botulism is caused by toxin produced from a wound infected with Clostridium botulinum. Infant botulism is caused by consuming the spores of the botulinum bacteria, which then grow in the intestines and release toxin. All forms of botulism can be fatal and are considered medical emergencies. Foodborne botulism can be especially dangerous because many people can be poisoned by eating a contaminated food.
19 Dec 05

Sample Q&A: The Disease

How do people get botulism?
There are three main kinds of botulism: Foodborne botulism, wound botulism, and infant botulism.. Foodborne botulism occurs after eating food contaminated with botulism toxin. Botulism is a concern with home-canned foods. The reason for the careful boiling and other precautions during canning is to avoid botulism.

Wound botulism is caused by toxin produced within a wound infected with Clostridium botulinum bacteria. For example, if soil containing botulism spores fell into an open wound, the spores could turn back into bacteria and produce toxins.

Infant botulism is caused by consuming the spores of botulism bacteria, which then grow in the intestines and release toxin. The reason you shouldn’t feed honey to an infant is because of the risk the honey might contain botulism spores.

All three forms of botulism can be life-threatening and should be treated as medical emergencies. Foodborne botulism is especially dangerous, because many people can be poisoned by eating from the same contaminated food source.