Why call it botulinum?

“Clostridium botulinum is a neurotoxigenic, anaerobic, gram-positive, spore-forming bacillus named after an outbreak of sausage poisoning in the late 1700s.” Botulus is latin for sausage.  Hence the name.

This and other facts about foodborne botulism are presented in a clinical problem-solving case (NEJM 2012; 367: 938-43).

Key information:

  • For foodborne botulism to develop neurotoxins must be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Fewer than 35 cases are reported annually in U.S.
  • Initial GI symptoms typically occur 12-72 hours after spore ingestion and can include constipation, cramps, vomiting, and less commonly diarrhea.
  • Biggest risk factors: home-canned foods or injecting black-tar heroin
  • Prolonged ventilatory support and antitoxin are cornerstones of treatment
  • Typical features: “Dozen D’s” dry mouth, diploplia, dilated pupils, droopy eyelids, droopy face, diminished gag reflex, dysphagia, dysphonia, difficulty lifting head, descending paralysis, and dyspnea.

To avoid being the next case report, if you like to can your own food, follow the guidelines in the link below:

National Center for Home Food Preservation | USDA Publications

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