botulism

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
Save to active project

botulism

botulism (bŏch´əlĬz´əm), acute poisoning resulting from ingestion of food containing toxins produced by the bacillus Clostridium botulinum. The bacterium can grow only in an anaerobic atmosphere, such as that found in canned foods. Consequently, botulism is almost always caused by preserved foods that have been improperly processed, usually a product canned imperfectly at home. The toxins are destroyed by boiling canned food for 30 min at 176°F (80°C). Once the toxins (which are impervious to destruction by the enzymes of the gastrointestinal tract) have entered the body, they interfere with the transmission of nerve impulses, causing disturbances in vision, speech, and swallowing, and ultimately paralysis of the respiratory muscles, leading to suffocation. Symptoms of the disease appear about 18 to 36 hr after ingestion of toxins. Botulinus antiserum is given to persons who have been exposed to contaminated food before they develop symptoms of the disease and is given to diagnosed cases of the disease as soon as possible. Developments in early detection have reduced the mortality rate from 65% to 10%.

See food poisoning.

Medicinal Use of Botulin Toxin

In a technique pioneered by Alan B. Scott, an ophthalmologist, and Edward Schantz, a biochemist, in the late 1970s, botulin toxin has been purified and used in the treatment of debilitating muscle spasms caused by the excessive firing of certain nerves. The treatment utilizes the same process that paralyzes the muscles in botulism poisoning. Injected in tiny amounts into the affected tissue, the botulin blocks the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that controls muscle contraction, and temporarily relieves the spasms. Botulin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1989 for treatment of blepharospasm (uncontrolled rapid blinking) and strabismus (crossed eyes). The toxin is also injected to treat other conditions, such as neck muscle spasms, and to provide short-term (three to four months) cosmetic treatment of facial wrinkles.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

botulism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?