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Botulism is a rare and potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The disease begins with weakness, trouble seeing, feeling tired, and trouble speaking. This may then be followed by weakness of the arms, chest muscles, and legs. The disease does not usually affect consciousness or cause a fever.

Botulism can be spread several different ways. The bacterial spores which cause it, are common in both soil and water. They produce the botulinum toxin when exposed to low oxygen levels and certain temperatures. Foodborne botulism happens when food containing the toxin is eaten. Infant botulism happens when the bacteria develops in the intestines and releases the toxin. This typically only occurs in children less than six months old, as protective mechanisms develop after that time. Wound botulism is found most often among those who inject street drugs. In this situation, spores enter a wound, and in the absence of oxygen, release the toxin. It is not passed directly between people. The diagnosis is confirmed by finding the toxin or bacteria in the person in question.

Prevention is primarily by proper food preparation. The toxin, though not the organism, is destroyed by heating it to more than for longer than 5 minutes. Honey can contain the organism, and for this reason, honey should not be fed to children under 12 months. Treatment is with an antitoxin. In those who lose their ability to breathe on their own, mechanical ventilation may be necessary for months. Antibiotics may be used for wound botulism. Death occurs in 5 to 10% of people. Botulism can affect many other animals. The word is from Latin, botulus, meaning sausage.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English


▪ Clostridium botulinum occurs in the soil and it is the cause of botulism.
▪ It's believed warm weather has led to a build up of botulism bacteria in the canal.
▪ Should the vichyssoise contain a touch of botulism, however, there would be small need for alarm.
▪ The girl's landlady had made a packed lunch from pork which is at the centre of a botulism alert.
▪ The vet diagnosed botulism so undoubtedly the goose was infected.
Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary


1878, from German Botulismus (1878), coined in German from Latin botulus "sausage" (see bowel) + -ismus suffix of action or state (see -ism). Sickness first traced to eating tainted sausage (sausage poisoning was an old name for it).



n. (context pathology English) Poisoning caused by the toxin from ''Clostridium botulinum'', a type of anaerobic bacteria that grows in improperly-prepared food.



n. food poisoning from ingesting botulin; not infectious; affects the CNS; can be fatal if not treated promptly

Usage examples of "botulism".

For example, the Japanese terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo, which was responsible for the release of deadly Sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, had previously tried to disperse aerosolized anthrax and botulism throughout Tokyo on several occasions.

However, unlike other possible bioterror agents such as anthrax, botulism, and tularemia, there are no natural stores of smallpox in the soil or animals.

Nor does smallpox have the ability to form spores, the hard shells that protect anthrax and botulism bacteria indefinitely in a state of suspended animation.

There are many parallels between the bacteria that cause anthrax and botulism: Both form spores and come naturally from the soil.

BOTULISM AS A BIOWEAPON A Brief History The use of botulinum toxin as a biological weapon dates back to World War II.

These include botulism, brucellosis, listeriosis, and Vibrio vulnificus.

But they never stopped trying, and some day Tartary, France, or Zanzibar would launch a missile of its own and it would mean nothing less than the end of the world in fire and plague as the rocket trails laced continents together and the bombers rained botulism, radiocobalt, and flasks of tritium with bikinis in their cores.

Agatha Treadway died of botulism, having eaten improperly preserved string beans.

With botulism the danger to the patient came not from the bug itself but from a toxin it released when the cell was broken.

But as you know, botulism is pretty rare and actually very difficult to diagnose.

CDC has been employing a fourth category for the disease, which they term Botulism Classification Undetermined or BCU.

In truth, anyone with a jar of mayo and a source of heat as simple as a match could grow a botulism culture.