Europe 1 with AFP 12:20 pm, September 13, 2023

One person died among a dozen with botulism, after eating artisanal canned sardines in the same restaurant in Bordeaux last week. A serious and rare neurological disease caused by a very potent toxin produced by bacteria.

Botulism is a serious neurological condition caused by a very powerful toxin produced by bacteria, which can be fatal in 5% to 10% of cases. This toxin develops especially in poorly preserved foods, and the disease generally results from food poisoning, says the Pasteur Institute.

The pathogen involved in botulism is a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum). It is the extremely powerful toxin it synthesizes that is responsible for the disease. Of the seven types of botulism known today, four (types A, B, E and more rarely F) affect humans.

Botulism occurs within hours to days after incubation

In France, botulism is rare: the average incidence has stabilized since 1980 around 20-30 outbreaks per year, most often each involving one to three patients. In the majority of households, it is food botulism related to the consumption of family preserves, but also artisanal products or mass distribution that have not undergone a thorough sterilization process: salted meats, cold cuts or preserves of family or artisanal origin.

Other forms of botulism (infantile, due to colonization of the intestine by C. botulinum or by injury, following contamination of a wound with C. botulinum c) are rarer. Botulism occurs after incubation of a few hours to a few days, depending on the mode of contamination.

Eye involvement, dry mouth, speech defect...

In general, people who have shared the same foods have identical symptoms, but with varying severity. These begin with ocular involvement (lack of accommodation, blurred vision), dry mouth accompanied by swallowing or even speech defects.

In advanced forms, they progress to descending paralysis of the limbs and respiratory muscles. It is this respiratory failure that leads to death, details the Institut Pasteur.

The vast majority of patients treated without delay recover without sequelae

Treatments are essentially symptomatic, that is, they aim to reduce the intensity of symptoms. For severe forms, intensive respiratory care with assisted ventilation is required. The administration of botulinum antitoxin in the hours or first days after the onset of symptoms can shorten the time of hospitalization, says Public Health France.

The vast majority of patients treated without delay recover without sequelae, but the duration of treatment and convalescence can last several months, adds the health agency.

In Bordeaux, 10 cases were reported among people who all frequented the same restaurant (Tchin Tchin Wine Bar) between Monday 4 and Sunday 10 September. The health authorities recommend that people who have eaten in this establishment during this period consult a doctor urgently or contact the 15 mentioning the cases of botulism, in case of symptoms that appeared after this frequentation.