Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The bacteria may enter the body through wounds, or they may live in improperly canned or preserved food.
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Clostridium botulinum is found in soil and untreated water throughout the world. It produces spores that survive in improperly preserved or canned food, where they produce toxin. When eaten, even tiny amounts of this toxin can lead to severe poisoning.
The foods most commonly contaminated are home-canned vegetables, cured pork and ham, smoked or raw fish, and honey or corn syrup. Botulism may also occur if the organism enters open wounds and produces toxin there.
Infant botulism occurs when living bacteria or its spores are eaten and grow within the baby’s gastrointestinal tract. The most common cause of infant botulism is eating honey or corn syrup.
Clostridium botulinum also occurs normally in the stool of some infants.
Approximately 110 cases of botulism occur in the U.S. per year. The majority are in infants.
Pictures & Images
Bacterial infections can lead to the formation of pus, or to the spread of the bacteria in the blood.
Review Date : 8/28/2009
Reviewed By : Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.