Food-borne botulism: review of five cases.

Teresa Cardoso, Manuela Costa, H Cristina Almeida, Mário Guimarães


Food-borne botulism is a disease caused by the ingestion of food contaminated with botulinum toxin, often present in smoked meat, canned food and preserved food; it can occur as sporadic case or as an outbreak. In the last decades there has been an increasing incidence of food-borne botulism in Portugal. The authors do a review of five cases of food-borne botulism, three isolated cases and 2 familiar. Four were associated with the ingestion of smoked ham and one of canned tunafish. The incubation period was 48 hours in one patient and 4 days in another, in the remaining patients it was not possible to determine this period. The clinical picture was dominated in all patients by diplopy, dysphagia, dizziness, blurred vision, dry mouth and constipation, and in two patients there were gastrointestinal complains. In one patient the electromyography findings were compatible with pre-synaptic neuromuscular blockage. A toxin type B was found in the serum of one patient and in the food involved in the two familiar cases. All patients experienced complete recovery with only symptomatic treatment. With this article the authors intend to call attention to this diagnosis, which is not rare, but difficult for someone not familiar with its presentation, being of notice that the diagnosis is essentially clinic with a strong epidemiological history, confirmed by typical electromyography findings and by the identification of the toxin involved. In Portugal there is only descriptions of clinical cases associated with the type B and the type E toxins, not being necessary the resource to the antitoxin therapy.

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