Clostridium botulinum (BOTULISM)

It is a serious paralytic illness caused by Clostridium botulinum. The toxin (only types A, B, E and F cause illness in humans) binds to receptors on peripheral nerves, where acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter and inhibits nerve impulses. Flaccid paralysis and often death
(from respiratory and/or cardiac failure) ensue.
The organism does not grow in the gut, but pre-formed exotoxin from prior germination of spores may be present in inadequately autoclaved canned food (usually at home). The toxin is heat labile and can be destroyed if heated at 80°C for 10 minutes or longer.


The incidence of the disease is low, but the disease is of considerable concern because of its high mortality rate if not treated immediately and properly. Botulism can be prevented by using food preservation methods that are designed to inhibit the growth of C. botulinum. For example, low acid (pH > 4.4) canned foods are heat treated to 121°C for 3 min (known as the
“botulism cook”) or equivalent.

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