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What is botulism? These are its symptoms and treatment

Thursday, July 20, 2023, 12:35


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“Botulism is a serious disease caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which on certain occasions can be fatal,” explains the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (Aesan).

It is relatively unusual, is not transmitted from person to person and is generally caused by the ingestion of foods contaminated with the aforementioned Clostridium botulinum bacteria, such as canned foods made without due precautions and in inappropriately processed, canned or bottled foods at home. .

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But there are also other forms of contagion, for example “through open wounds, inhalation or as a side effect of the deliberate use of the toxin in the treatment of neuromuscular diseases or in cosmetics,” says Aesan.


Botulinum toxins affect the nervous system. Initial symptoms include severe fatigue, weakness, and vertigo, usually followed by blurred vision, dry mouth, and difficulty swallowing and speaking. It can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal bloating. The disease can lead to weakness in the neck and arms, and later affect the respiratory muscles and muscles of the lower body.

The symptoms are not caused by the bacteria, but by the toxin it produces. They generally appear between 12 and 36 hours after ingestion (with a minimum period of four hours and a maximum of eight days).

The incidence of botulism is low, but the mortality rate is high if an early diagnosis is not made and appropriate treatment is provided as soon as possible. The disease can be fatal in 5 to 10% of cases.


It is mainly aimed at respiratory assistance to avoid respiratory arrest. To do this, botulinum antitoxin is administered, which neutralizes the effect of the circulating toxin. Additionally, supportive therapy is applied.


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