Botulism as a Potential Agent of Bioterrorism

  • Thomas P. Bleck
Part of the Emerging Infectious Diseases of the 21st Century book series (EIDC)


The clostridial neurotoxins are among the most potently lethal substances in the world, with median lethal doses (LD50) for humans in the nanogram/kilogram range. The toxins are closely related proteins, produced as a single polypeptide chain and subsequently altered to produce a heavy chain and a light chain connected by disulfide bonds. The genetic information encoding the seven botulinum toxins is encoded on the bacterial chromosome; in contrast, tetanospasmin, the tetanus neurotoxin, is encoded on a plasmid. Both botulinum and tetanus toxins are relatively simple to produce. The botulinum toxins affect the neuromuscular junction and muscarinic peripheral autonomic synapses; their major manifestations are weakness and autonomic dysfunction. In stark relief, the predominant effect of tetanospasmin is in the central nervous system, where it produces failure of inhibition leading to hypertonia and spasms.


Botulinum Toxin Acute Flaccid Paralysis Biological Weapon Cranial Nerve Dysfunction Ventilatory Failure 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas P. Bleck
    • 1
  1. 1.Neurological Surgery and Internal MedicineNeuroscience Intensive Care UnitCharlottesvilleVA

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