Botulism – Rare Fatal Condition
Botulism is a rare though actually a fatal condition that is caused by toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The toxins which are developed by C. botulinum could be some of the most influential toxins known to science which attack the nervous system such as the brain, nerves and spinal cord. They could cause paralysis or muscle weakness which tends to spread gradually down the body from the head towards the legs. Some of the symptoms could include:
- Double or blurred vision
- Drooping eyelids
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Difficulty in speaking
If this condition is not treated in time, the paralysis could ultimately affect the muscles which control the breathing causing fatal respiratory failure, in one out of every 10 persons suffering from this ailment. The condition is serious and immediate medical treatment is essential to help the person. The bacteria which are the cause of botulism are found in soil, dust and river or sea sediments and though the bacteria themselves are harmless, they tend to produce poisonous toxins when the same are deprived of oxygen like in closed cans or bottles, or stagnant soil or mud.
Three Kinds of Botulism
There are three main kinds of botulism but with slight different causes:
- Food borne botulism which takes place when the person tends to eat food which could be contaminated with infected soil when the food is not properly canned, cooked or preserved
- Infant botulism occurs when a baby swallows spores of C. botulinum bacteria in contaminated food or soil, like honey
- Wound botulism takes place when a wound tends to get infected with C. botulinum bacteria like heroin, into muscles instead of a vein
These forms of botulism seem to be rare in UK though wound botulism is the most common in the last fifteen years or so. Since 2000, in England and Wales, there have been around 147 instances of wound botulism with eight deaths, though only seven cases of food-borne botulism of one death with eleven cases of infant botulism with no deaths.
Since botulism is a life threatening disease, it is diagnosed on admission in the hospital. A diagnosis is based on the symptoms but the test will be conducted on sample of blood, faeces, stomach contents, food, pus or tissue to identify the C. botulinum bacteria or toxin to confirm the diagnosis.
Since immediate treatment is most essential, it begins much before the test results. Treatment is based on the type of botulism the person may be suffering which involves neutralising the toxins with injections of special antibodies with support in breathing provided.