Symptoms And Treatment Of Botulism And Safety Issues Surrounding Botox
Botulism has quietly (all too quietly) made news several times in the past month. The FDA issued alerts about recalls of canned beans, black-eyed peas, and asparagus from the New Era Canning Company. Soon after that, another botulism-related alert was issued. This time the FDA warned about possible adverse reactions to Botox and Botox cosmetic and Myobloc. Injections of the Botulinum toxin for cosmetic purposes and/or for therapeutic purposes have, again, been implicated in botulism-related deaths and illness. Though rare, Botulism is a very serious illness and one I believe is, perhaps, not well understood by the general public. Here I will explain some things everyone should know about Botulism. I will also discuss safety issues surrounding Botox injections.
Botulism is the name of an illness caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Clostridium botulinum spores are neurotoxins and cause paralysis of the affected areas. When the toxins spread to the the respiratory system, the result is respiratory failure. The illness, as you’ve probably guessed, is fatal if left untreated.
Symptoms of Botulism
According to the CDC, initial symptoms of Botulism include:
Double vision, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, and muscle weakness. In the food-borne version, symptoms usually appear within a day or two of consuming the contaminated food.
The forms and causes of botulism
There are three kinds of Botulism:
Wound Botulism occurs when the bacteria enter a wound site and produce toxins.
Food-Borne Botulism occurs when contaminated food is consumed. Contamination is most common in improperly canned vegetables.
You might be surprised to learn that among these three, Infant Botulism is the most common. Infant Botulism occurs when C- Botulinum spores proliferate in the digestive tract. This kind of botulism is typically caused by a baby ingesting dust or honey that has been contaminated with the bacteria. The infant’s digestive system is not able to remove the bacteria quickly enough and the bacteria soon produce the toxins. The disease is rare and most infants survive with treatment. Signs include constipation, muscle weakness, a weak cry and breathing problems. To read more about Infant Botulism, please visit the link I’ve included with this article in the resources section.
Treatment for Botulism
Treatment does exist but afflicted persons need to receive it as soon as possible. Botulism victims are given an anti-toxin (except in cases of infant botulism) and, if necessary, are put on a respirator to assist breathing. Medical care may be needed for several weeks to several years, in some cases.
About Botox, Botox Cosmetic, and Myobloc
Botox® is a name for injectable botulinum toxin type A and is approved for treatment of some kinds of muscle spasms. Removal of the nasal tip with botox will be effective without any surgery. Different kinds of muscles will be treated through the botox in the nose of the person.
Botox® Cosmetic also uses botulinum toxin type A. These injections are used for anti-wrinkle cosmetic purposes.
Myobloc™ uses botulinum toxin Type B and is approved for therapeutic use of a nerve disorder in the neck called cervical dystonia as well as cosmetic anti-wrinkle purposes.
The most serious adverse reactions related to Botox were found in cases where botulism toxins were inappropriately used for young cerebral palsy victims. The FDA does not recommend Botox injections for children under twelve.
Other cases off adverse reactions have been indicated in those receiving Botox injections for cosmetic purposes. What happened in all cases is the neurotoxins spread past the injection site to other areas of the body.
Although Botulism is rare, I am concerned that the general public remains largely uninformed about recalls and safety issues regarding our food supply. This illness is such a serious one that I feel it warrants much more attention. Also, the recent notification about Botox highlights the importance of developing stricter regulations regarding the use of C-Botulinum in any setting. Some fatal cases a few years ago were linked to cosmetic surgeons/assistants who used botulinum injections that contained very high concentrations of the neurotoxin. That clinic staff even had unregulated access to such large concentrated amounts of this neurotoxin should be alarming (the link to that story is available below).
The therapeutic uses for Botox are undisputed. However, due to the toxin’s serious nature and very real potential for overdose and misuse (accidental or intentional) stricter regulatory measures need to be addressed and put into place.