Botulism: Lessons Learned at CDC
Hello. I am Dr. Agam Rao, a medical officer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and director of CDC's national botulism consultation program. I am pleased to speak with you today as part of the CDC Expert Commentary Series on Medscape.
Our program works 24/7 to provide direct consultation to clinicians and staff on suspected botulism cases and arranges for the release of antitoxin when necessary. Over the 40-year existence of our program, we have consulted on thousands of potential cases and learned critical lessons. The most important lesson is that recognizing and treating botulism early is essential to minimizing morbidity.
Botulism Basics and Recognition
Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness that often affects previously healthy people. It is caused by botulinum toxin, the most potent known toxin. This toxin is produced by Clostridium botulinum under certain conditions that -- thankfully -- occur only rarely. Even taking a small taste of food containing this toxin can cause botulism. Categories of botulism include foodborne, wound, infant, adult intestinal colonization, and iatrogenic (Table).
Table. Categories of Botulism and Key Facts to Guide Clinicians
|Botulism Category||Age||Typical Exposure History||Helpful Information|
|Foodborne||Not specified||Ingesting foods that are recognized vehicles; examples include
• Home-canned food
• Alaska Native foods
|Foods must contain toxin, not just spores, to be a confirmed foodborne botulism vehicle.
C botulinum produces toxin only in rarely attained conditions including low acidity, low oxygen, low salt and sugar content, and warm temperatures.
|Infant||< 1 year||Not specified||Ingestion of honey is the only food known to be associated with infant botulism.
C botulinum spores are ingested from the environment and produce toxin in immature guts.
|Wound||Not specified||Injection drug use
Fresh contaminated wound
|"Skin-popping" (subcutaneous injection) of black tar heroin is commonly associated with wound botulism in the United States.|
|Adult intestinal colonization||≥ 1 year||Functional or structural gut problems may be associated||This is a very rare type of botulism that is poorly understood. It is thought to be similar to infant botulism.|
|Iatrogenic||≥ 1 year||High doses or concentrations of botulinum toxin used for various therapeutic purposes||This is often associated with doses much higher than the recommended doses.|
Public Information from the CDC and Medscape
Cite this: Botulism: Countering Common Clinical Misperceptions - Medscape - Apr 01, 2013.