Botulism: Bacteria and Commercially Canned Foods

Topics: Botulism, Bacteria, Clostridium botulinum Pages: 2 (561 words) Published: August 4, 2010

Botulism is a bacterial disease most often linked to un-sterile canned foods. It can be rather serious, as it has the potential to paralyze the respiratory system and thus cause death. The bacterium is named Clostridium Botulinum, it is a gram-positive and anaerobic pathogen. The morphology consists of rod shaped spores. The toxin is widely used in cosmetic injections, also known as Botox, to decrease wrinkles in the skin.

Though Botulism is mainly linked to canned foods, the most common mode of acquisition is infant botulism. This occurs when the bacterium colonizes inside the intestines. This happens because infants lack the normal flora needed to inhibit the growth of the botulism microbe. However, numbers are still low as there are only 80-90 reported cases of infant botulism a year. Foodborne Botulism is very rare nowadays with extreme measures being taken to ensure canned foods are sterile. The majority of foodborne cases are a result of home-canned foods and uncooked, fermented foods. Wound Botulism results from contamination of the bacterium in a wound. It is most common in drug users who are inadvertently injecting into the skin instead of the veins. Isolated cases have happened from spore inhalation in laboratory workers and some Botox users.

When the Botulism toxin is absorbed into the blood, it blocks the release of acetylcholine at nerve synapses. Therefore the symptoms of Botulism mainly involve problems with nerve function. In most cases, the cranial nerves of the brain are affected first. These nerves control functions such as eye movement, facial expressions, chewing, and swallowing. Difficulty speaking, drooping eyelids, and double vision are the most common initial symptoms as well as nausea, lethargy, and vomiting. With time, the symptoms spread to the arms and legs and other voluntary muscles. Involuntary muscles can also be affected by decreased production of saliva, decreased blood pressure, and...
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