Clostridium botulinum

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Clostridium botulinum is a gram-positive, rod shaped bacterium that produces neurotoxins known as botulinum neurotoxins types A-G, which causes flaccid muscular paralysis seen in botulism, and is also the main paralytic agent in botox. It is an anaerobic spore-former, which produces oval, subterminal endospores and is commonly found in soil.



Clostridium botulinum is a rod-shaped microorganism. It is an obligate anaerobe, meaning that oxygen is poisonous to the cells. However, C. botulinum tolerates traces of oxygen due to the enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD) which is an important antioxidant defense in nearly all cells exposed to oxygen.[1] C. botulinum is only able to produce the neurotoxin during sporulation, which can only happen in an anaerobic environment. Other bacterial species produce spores in an unfavorable growth environment to preserve the organism's viability and permit survival in a dormant state until the spores are exposed to favorable conditions.

In the laboratory Clostridium botulinum is usually isolated in tryptose sulfite cycloserine (TSC) growth media in an anaerobic environment with less than 2% of oxygen. This can be achieved by several commercial kits that use a chemical reaction to replace O2 with CO2 (E.J. GasPak System). C. botulinum is a lipase negative microorganism that grows between pH of 4.8 and 7 and it can't use lactose as a primary carbon source, characteristics important during a biochemical identification.[2]

Taxonomy history

Clostridium botulinum was first recognized and isolated in 1895 by Emile van Ermengem from home cured ham implicated in a botulism outbreak.[3] The isolate was originally named Bacillus botulinus. However, isolates from subsequent outbreaks were always found to be anaerobic spore formers, so Bengston proposed that the organism be placed into the genus Clostridium as the Bacillus genus was restricted to aerobic spore-forming rods.[4]

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