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Research on and usage of the botulinum bacteria

Contact Botulinum Toxin Botulinum toxin poses a major bioweapons threat because of its extreme potency and lethality; its ease of production, transport and misuse; and the potential need for prolonged intensive care of affected persons.

Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness

Botulinum toxin is the single most poisonous substance known. A number of states named by the U. State Department as "state sponsors of terrorism" have developed or are developing botulinum toxin as a biological weapon.

  • Severe botulism cases require supportive treatment, especially mechanical ventilation, which may be required for weeks or even months;
  • Hence, further injections at regular intervals are required and the interval varies widely depending on the dose and individual susceptibility.

The Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo tried but failed to use botulinum toxin as a biological weapon. Botulinum toxin is derived from the genus of anaerobic bacteria named Clostridia. They can be identified based on antibody cross-reactivity studies: Naturally occurring botulism is the disease that results from the absorption of botulinum toxin into the circulation from a mucosal surface gut, lung or a wound.

  1. Prominent neurologic findings in all forms of botulism include ptsosis, diplopia, blurred vision, dysarthria and dysphagia. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.
  2. In the event of a clinical suspicion of botulinum toxin, treatment with antitoxin should not be delayed for microbiological testing. The toxin produced in its native form consisting of the neuroxin and five neurotoxin associated proteins or NAPs can survive in open environment for months, and can also survive the digestive proteases in the gastro-intestinal tract.
  3. Botulinum toxin is derived from the genus of anaerobic bacteria named Clostridia. The organism is also susceptible to high salt, high oxygen, and low pH levels.
  4. Unfortunately, there has been much confusion over the doses and units of potency of the two preparations. The package insert recommends reconstitution using sterile saline without preservative; 0.
  5. In infants, the bacteria can sometimes grow in the intestines and produce botulinum toxin within the intestine and can cause a condition known as floppy baby syndrome.

It does not penetrate intact skin. The toxin irreversibly binds to peripheral cholinergic synapses, preventing the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from the terminal end of motor neurons.

Botulinum toxin

This leads to muscle paralysis and, in severe cases, can lead to a need for mechanical respiration. The average incubation period is 12—72 hours after ingestion.

Prominent neurologic findings in all forms of botulism include ptsosis, diplopia, blurred vision, dysarthria and dysphagia. Patients typically are afebrile and do not have an altered level of consciousness.

BOTULINUM TOXIN

Patients may initially present with gastrointestinal distress, nausea and vomiting preceding neurological symptoms. Symptoms are similar for all toxin types, but the severity of illness can vary widely, depending, in part, on the amount of toxin absorbed. Recovery from paralysis can take from weeks to months and requires the growth of new motor nerve endings.

In the event botulism is suspected, the hospital epidemiologist and local and state health departments should be contacted immediately. Natural cases of botulism are rare and typically result from food contamination. The largest botulism outbreak in the U. No cases of waterborne botulism have ever been reported. This is likely research on and usage of the botulinum bacteria to the large amount of toxin needed, and the fact that the toxin is easily neutralized by common water-treatment techniques.

A deliberate aerosol or foodborne release of botulinum toxin could be detected by several features, including: The standard test for the toxin is the mouse bioassay. Unfortunately, this assay is time consuming.

Polymerase chain reaction PCR assays that can detect the Clostridia spp. In the event of a clinical suspicion of botulinum toxin, treatment with antitoxin should not be delayed for microbiological testing. An investigational heptavalent antitoxin is held by the U.

Optimal therapy for botulism requires early suspicion of the disease and prompt administration of antitoxin in conjunction with supportive care. An investigational botulinum toxoid is used to provide immunity for laboratory workers.

It has been used to provide immunity against botulinum toxin over the past 30 years. However, supply of the toxoid is limited, and its use would eliminate possible beneficial uses of toxoid for medical purposes. The toxoid induces immunity over several months and, therefore, would not be effective for rapid, post-exposure prophylaxis. Existing technologies could produce large reserves of human antibody against the botulinum toxin. Administration of such a therapy could provide immunity of up to a month or greater and obviate the need for rationing the equine antitoxin.

The development of such a human antibody reserve would require that sufficient resources be dedicated to this task.

Exposure and transmission

About the Experts J. Doug Storey, PhD Dr. Storey has over 30 years of work in communication, health and education in domestic and international settings. He is currently looking at the role of media in public health response.