Botulism is caused by a neurotoxin produced by a microbe, Clostridium botulinum. The toxin acts at the neuromuscular junction, i.e. the point at which nerves arrive in the muscles. The nerve endings use a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine to communicate with the muscles and stimulate them to contract. Botulinum toxin blocks the release of acetylcholine. The muscle itself is therefore not affected directly, but can't receive any messages from the brain/nervous system. The blocking of acetylcholine also produces other effects, often seen first in botulism poisoning, which include dry mouth, double vision, droopy eyelids, difficulty swallowing or speaking (due to weakness of throat muscles), and a blank facial expression

There are three types of botulism: food, wound and infant botulism.

Botulism is not transmitted from person to person. Botulism develops if a person ingests the toxin or if the organism grows in the intestines or wounds and toxin is released. RARELY inhaled.

Children under the age of 12 months are most susceptible, but adults who have certain gastrointestinal problems may also be at risk

A neurotoxin actually paralyzes the nerves so that the muscles cannot contract.

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Food-borne botulism: Humans can come into contact with botulism by eating improperly canned or preserved foods that contain the botulinum toxin. ƒ Wound botulism: Humans can come into contact with botulism when a wound is infected with bacteria. The bacteria then produce the toxin, which can spread throughout the whole body. ƒ Infant botulism: Babies can come into contact with botulism when they eat a contaminated food (such as honey). The bacteria grow in the small intestine and produce the toxin, which can spread throughout the whole body. ƒ Inhalation botulism: This form happens when the pure form of the toxin is breathed into the lungs.

Botulinum toxin is destroyed by high temperatures, persons who eat home-canned foods should consider boiling the food for 10 minutes before eating it to ensure safety. Wound botulism can be prevented by promptly seeking medical care for infected wounds and by not using injectable street drugs. Most infant botulism cases cannot be prevented because the bacteria that causes this disease is in soil and dust. The bacteria can be found inside homes on floors, carpet, and countertops even after cleaning. Honey can contain the bacteria that causes infant botulism so, children less than 12 months old should not be fed honey. Honey is safe for persons 1 year of age and older.