Chapter 32 Food Microbiology
The exotoxin produced by Clostridium botulinum is one of the most powerful poisons known.These anaerobic soil bacteria are sporeformers found naturally on many foods.They survive usual cooking methods and inadequate canning procedures. Should conditions become anaerobic in the food, toxin can be produced, and if ingested it causes botulism. A few milligrams of this exotoxin is sufficient to kill the entire population of a large city.The botulinum toxin blocks transmission of acetylcholine nerve signals to the muscles, resulting in paralysis and often in death.This is a very dangerous toxin.Yet surprisingly, in recent years the toxin from type A organisms, known as botox, has become useful in treating various conditions.
The most unusual use of botox is cosmetic treatment to remove facial lines, such as frown lines. Extremely dilute botox is injected directly into the area, inactivating the muscles that are causing the frown or other lines.While the lines are erased, the effect is temporary and the treatment must be repeated after several months.
Easier to understand is the use of botox to relieve a number of very painful and disabling conditions involving muscle contractions, such as dystonia (severe muscle cramping). For example, cervical dystonia is a painful disease in which muscles in the neck and shoulders contract involuntarily, causing jerky movements, muscle pain, and tremors. Injections of botox directly into the affected areas give relief for 3 to 4 months, after which the treatment may be repeated.With time, some people become resistant to the effects of botox prepared from type A organisms, and now type B toxin is being used with good effect in those cases. Of course, very dilute toxin is injected, yet it is sufficient to paralyze the muscles for weeks or months. Another example is Parkinson's disease, a condition in which certain nerve cells are lost, resulting in tremor, impaired movement, and in some cases, dystonia. Botox injected into the affected muscles can give dramatic, although temporary, relief. So in spite of its powerful and dangerous properties, botulinum toxin when used with great care can be a useful therapeutic agent.
Prevention then involves more thorough cooking so that enough heat reaches the center to kill all the organisms. ■ hemolytic uremic syndrome, pp. 614,615
Was this article helpful?