Case of botulism in Bordeaux: what is this potentially fatal poisoning?

Seven people were admitted Saturday September 9 to the Bordeaux University Hospital following a rare and potentially serious food poisoning. They would suffer from botulinum toxin poisoning, according to information from South West.

This Tuesday, the Regional Health Agency (ARS) of Nouvelle-Aquitaine indicates in a press release that six of these patients “presented various neurological or digestive symptoms” and were hospitalized in order to “receive botulinum antitoxic treatment”. Five of them had to be placed on respiratory istance in the intensive care unit, according to a resuscitation doctor from Bordeaux University Hospital contacted by the site.

A toxin found in many foods

THE botulism is an acute neurological condition caused by an extremely potent toxin produced by a bacteria called clostridium botulinium. A communicated published by the prefect of Gironde recalls that the majority of cases of botulism in France correspond to food poisoning, by ingestion of “preserved foods which have not undergone an extensive sterilization process: cured meats, cold meats or even original preserves family or artisanal. » This seems to be the case in the Bordeaux establishment concerned, where the seven patients apparently consumed canned sardines made at home by the restaurateur.

L’WHO (World Health Organization) reports that botulinum toxin has been found in various foods, including “in lightly acidic preserved vegetables such as green beans, spinach, mushrooms, and beets; in fish, particularly canned tuna, fermented, salted or smoked fish; and in meat products such as ham and sausage.”

According to the ARS, botulism occurs after an incubation period of 12 to 72 hours on average, when it is of food origin. If people who have shared the same foods show identical symptoms, their severity may vary. This can range from digestive problems that may be fleeting to abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or even discomfort. diarrhea.

Paralysis that can lead to death

The ARS also reports risks of eye damage (a lack of accommodation, as well as blurred vision), neurological symptoms responsible for a risk of aspiration, dry mouth accompanied by a swallowing problem. even speech, as well as more or less severe paralysis of the muscles. In advanced forms, these symptoms “progress towards a descending paralysis of the limbs and respiratory muscles”, notes thePastor Institutewhich specifies that it is this respiratory failure which leads to death.

Although botulism is fatal in 5 to 10% of cases, its mortality is high when treatment is not immediate. The treatment of botulism is essentially symptomatic and requires, in severe forms, intensive respiratory care with isted ventilation. The vast majority of patients treated without delay recover without after-effects, but the duration of treatment and convalescence can last several months. The Pasteur Institute states that antibiotics have no action on botulinum toxin, and are therefore not prescribed for adults.

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