As a child I remember hearing once in a while that somebody died because of botulism, and without knowing at that time if that was a poison or an infection, but knowing that in almost all the cases it was associated with fish, I developed a slight paranoia fish- related.
Later on, after I took some courses in Bacteriology, I found out that botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum), which is a bacterium that inhabits rivers, soil, and the guts of mammals, fish, and shellfish worldwide. These bacteria secrete a neurotoxin (nerve poison) so deadly that a few billionths of a gram could kill you. This is botulin toxin, one of the most dangerous substances known. Botulism is the condition of having been poisoned with botulin toxin.
The most common botulism occurs via food, not only fish. Most food-borne botulism is attributed to home-canned foods and it can also be transmitted by foods that are not heated, or not heated thoroughly, before eating. Almost every type of food has been associated with outbreaks of botulism, but the most commonly implicated foods are vegetables, particularly “low-acid” (i.e., higher pH) vegetables such as beans, peppers, carrots, and corn. Botulism has been related to honey as well, this being the main reason for not recommending honey to infants.
All right, so we know that botulin toxin is dangerous, and even more, it can be developed into a biological weapon.
In February 28, 2001, there was an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, titled ‘Botulinum Toxin as a Biological Weapon’
An abstract from the article, reads:
“Botulinum toxin poses a major bioweapon threat because of its extreme potency and lethality; its ease of production, transport, and misuse; and the need for prolonged intensive care among affected persons. An outbreak of botulism constitutes a medical emergency that requires prompt provision of botulinum antitoxin and, often, mechanical ventilation, and it constitutes a public health emergency that requires immediate intervention to prevent additional cases. Timely recognition of a botulism outbreak begins with an astute clinician who quickly notifies public health officials.
Botulinum toxin is the most poisonous substance known. A single gram of crystalline toxin, evenly dispersed and inhaled, would kill more than 1 million people, although technical factors would make such dissemination difficult. The basis of the phenomenal potency of botulinum toxin is enzymatic; the toxin is a zinc proteinase that cleaves 1 or more of the fusion proteins by which neuronal vesicles release acetylcholine into the neuromuscular junction.
It is regrettable that botulinum toxin still needs to be considered as a bioweapon at the historic moment when it has become the first biological toxin to become licensed for treatment of human disease. In the United States, botulinum toxin is currently licensed for treatment of cervical torticollis, strabismus, and blepharospasm associated with dystonia. It is also used “off label” for a variety of more prevalent conditions that include migraine headache, chronic low back pain, stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, achalasia, and various dystonias.
Terrorists have already attempted to use botulinum toxin as a bioweapon. Aerosols were dispersed at multiple sites in downtown Tokyo, Japan, and at US military installations in Japan on at least 3 occasions between 1990 and 1995 by the Japanese cult Aum Shinriky . These attacks failed, apparently because of faulty microbiological technique, deficient aerosol-generating equipment, or internal sabotage. The perpetrators obtained their C botulinum from soil that they had collected in northern Japan.”
After this long introduction let’s get to the question: knowing all that, are you still interested in trying Botox injections to get rid- temporarily- of wrinkles?
I had a friend who tried it and I was not impressed with the results. After getting Botox injections you look like you are wearing a mask; you can’t smile let alone laugh.
Even if it’s a cheapest alternative to an expensive plastic surgery, it is still bringing the question: is it worth poisoning yourself for the sake of looking a little bit younger?
Recently, FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) warned over Botox’s side effects, including possible deaths. Although the FDA has never formally approved that use for the drugs, some other countries have.
The warning includes both Botox Cosmetic and its competitor, Myobloc, both of them using botulinum toxin to block nerve impulses, causing them to relax.
In rare cases, the toxin can spread beyond the injection site to other parts of the body, paralyzing or weakening the muscles used for breathing and swallowing, a potentially fatal side effect, the FDA said.
The FDA said the deaths it is investigating so far all involve children, mostly cerebral palsy patients being treated for spasticity in their legs.
However, the FDA warned that it also is probing reports of illnesses in people of all ages who used the drugs for a variety of conditions, including at least one hospitalization of a woman given Botox for forehead wrinkles. The agency warned that patients receiving a botulinum toxin injection for any reason — cosmetic or medical — should be told to seek immediate care if they suffer symptoms of botulism, including: difficulty swallowing or breathing, slurred speech, muscle weakness, or difficulty holding up their head.
The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen petitioned the FDA to strengthen warnings to users of Botox and Myobloc — citing 180 reports of U.S. patients suffering fluid in the lungs, difficulty swallowing or pneumonia, including 16 deaths.