Guides for Emergency Response: Biological Agent or Weapon: Botulism
Guides for Emergency Response: Biological Agent or Weapon: Botulism AGENT: Botulism is caused by intoxication with any of seven distinct neurotoxins produced by bacillus Clostridium botulinum. Th e toxins are proteins with molecular weights of about 150,000, which bind to the presynaptic membrans of neurons at peripheral cholineric synapses to prevent release of acetylcholine and block neurotransmission. A biological warfare attack with botulinum toxin delivered by aerosol could be expected to cause symptoms similar to many aspects to those observed with food-borne botulism. A group of seven related neurotoxins (types A-G), botulinum toxins are typically found in canned foods and produce toxin when eaten. Such toxins block acetylcholine release in a similar manner to chemical nerve agents. Botulism can cause paralysis that can lead to respiratory failure requiring assisted ventilation until the paralysis passes. Th is toxin is not volatile and not dermally active. Botulism is usually NOT transmissible from one person to another. A supply of antitoxin against botulism is maintained by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) located in Atlanta, Georgia. Such antitoxin is eff ective against the severity of symptoms if administered early in the course of disease, and most patients eventually recover aft er weeks to months of supportive care.