|The following is reprinted from Uncle John's Unsinkable Bathroom Reader Botulinum neurotoxin serotype A (Botox) - Lacy, D.B., Tepp, W., Cohen, A.C., DasGupta, B.R., Stevens, R.C. (1998) Crystal structure of botulinum neurotoxin type A and implications for toxicity. Nat.Struct.Biol. 5: 898-902 - via Wikipedia You have probably heard of Botox - but did you know that it is actually a toxin that's so deadly that one pound of it is enough to kill all humans on Earth? Did you know that botulism got its name from ... sausage poisoning? Here's a few facts about the toxin that has the power to kill you and to eliminate your wrinkles ... 1. Botulism is a rare and serious disease caused by the toxin botulin, which is produced by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. The Center for Disease Control says that about 145 cases are reported in the United States each year, although modern medicine makes deaths rare. 2. Symptoms of botulinum poisoning can begin between six hours and two weeks after eating. They include: double vision, blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness that starts in the upper body, descends down the arms, down the torso, and then down the legs. Breathing muscles can become paralyzed, and death can occur if emergency medical treatment is not given. 3. C. botulinum occurs naturally in soils around the world. Its main activity is the consumption of dead organic material - and the toxin is its "poop." The bacteria and their waste can also contaminate plants, and from there, or from the soil itself, can contaminate birds, fish, and mammals. 4. Bacteria are single-celled organisms and some of the most primitive life forms on Earth. C. botulinum has probably been making animals and humans sick for as long as it has existed - and by doing so, it has helped shape their eating habits. 5. In times of stress (such as a very cold or very hot weather that cause food shortages), C. botulinum, like other bacteria species, can produce an endospore - a protective structure in which it can survive in a dormant state until conditions improve. How long can it stay in that state? Microbiologists have found dormant bacterial spores that were hundreds of millions of years old. These ancient spores were able to "wake up" and start eating again. 6. Botulism timeline:
In 1944 American Dr. Edward Schantz becomes the first to identify the toxin botulin. 7. There are three main types of botulism:
- In the 10th century, Emperor Leo VI of Byzantium bans the manufacture of blood sausage. Historians believe this, as well as many other food regulations passed throughout history, could have been due to botulism outbreaks. (Raw and undercooked meats are common botulism poisoning culprits.)
- In 1735 the first authenticated case of the mysterious disease is recorded in southern Germany, again linked to contaminated sausage.
- Between 1817 and 1822, German doctor Justinus Kerner publishes the first accurate description of botulism and calls the illness "sausage poison." This later led to its scientific name: botulus is Latin for "sausage."
- In 1895 the cause of a botulism outbreak in the small Belgian village of Ellezelles is identified: a smoked ham eaten at a funeral dinner. Emile Pierre van Ermengem, professor of bacteriology at the University of Ghent, studies the victims and becomes the first person to isolate and identify C. botulinum bacterium.
8. Why is honey sold with the warning label, "Do not feed to infants under one year of age"? Botulism. Bees naturally collect the spores when they gather nectar, and they mix the bacteria in with their honey. Most adults have strong enough immune system to handle it, but babies don't, making honey a common cause of infant botulism. 9. C. botulinum is anaerobic: Oxygen kills it. That's why, if the spores are already in the food, home-canned foods can be particularly dangerous. The canning process depletes oxygen, and if a high-enough temperature is not maintained for long enough during the cooking and canning process, the spores can survive, and they'll feed on the food until it's eaten ... by humans. 10. Those bacteria also prefer alkaline environments, so the most common canned-food culprits are low-acid foods such as asparagus, lima beans, green beans, corn, meats, fish, and poultry. 11. Ever seen "swollen" cans of food? Hopefully you threw them away. C. botulinum creates gases when it eats, and swollen cans are a sign that the food inside might be infected. (The FDA recommends double-plastic-bagging such cans before disposal.) 12. How toxic is it? A little over a pound of botulin is enough to kill every human on Earth. 13. You've probably heard of Botox. That's the brand name for the drug BTX-A. What's that stand for? "Botulin Toxin Type A." The popular cosmetic treatment is actually made form the bacterial toxin: It paralyzes the face muscles, making them flatten out and appear to be less wrinkled. (It's also used for medical purposes, including treating muscle spasms, clubfoot, and crossed eyes.)
- Foodborne botulism makes up about 15% of all cases and occurs when a person ingests food that has already-formed botulin toxin in it.
- Infant botulism makes up approximately 65% of cases and occurs when spores are ingested by infants. The bacteria colonize the intestines, release the toxin, and poison the child.
- Wound botulism makes up the remaining 20% and occurs when wounds are infected with the bacteria and secrete the toxin.