A rare type of food poisoning with a mortality greater than 50 per cent, caused by the presence of the exotoxin of the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum, usually in contaminated tinned or bottled food. Symptoms develop a few hours after ingestion.
The toxin has two components, one having haemagglutinin activity and the other neurotoxic activity which produces most of the symptoms. It has a lethal dose of as little as 1 mg/kg and is highly selective for cholinergic nerves. Thus the symptoms are those of autonomic parasympathetic blockade (dry mouth, constipation, urinary retention, mydriasis, blurred vision) and progress to blockade of somatic cholinergic transmission (muscle weakness). Death results from respiratory muscle paralysis. Treatment consists of supportive measures and 4 aminopyridine and 3, 4 di-aminopyridine, which may antagonise the eﬀect of the toxin.