We wrote in May about the new, faster tests that are in the works for detecting botulism. Sandy Miller Hays of the Agricultural Research Service picks up this subject in today’s Everybody’s Science. She writes:
Although cases of foodborne botulism are rare in the United States these days, they do still occur. Botulinum toxin occurs in seven different forms, known as serotypes A through G, although serotypes A and B are the culprits in about 90 percent of the foodborne botulism cases in the United States. (Botulism is the reason why your mother warned you to never, ever eat food from a can that’s dented, swollen or–heaven forbid–leaking.)
Botulinum is a protein that acts like a neurotoxin, interfering with the neurological system that otherwise transmits vital signals throughout your body. In particular, it can cut off normal messaging to muscles, causing paralysis. Worst-case scenario: The toxin paralyzes the muscles of your diaphragm and you die of suffocation.
Unfortunately, there is no federally approved vaccine against botulinum. An injection of horse antiserum can help remove the toxin from your bloodstream, but that treatment can cause serious side effects.
Its worth going to her site and reading the rest.