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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 is botulism diagnosed?
The most direct way to confirm the diagnosis of botulism is to test for botulism toxin in a patient’s blood or stool, by injecting blood or stool into mice and watching for signs of botulism. The bacteria can also be isolated from the stool of people with foodborne and infant botulism. These tests can be performed at some state health department and at Centers for Disease Control (CDC) laboratories.