Diseases Home > Botulism Transmission

The routes through which botulism transmission occurs depend on the type of botulism. Unlike infectious diseases, botulism is not spread from one person to another. Foodborne botulism transmission happens when a person eats food contaminated with botulinum spores. The spores grow into bacteria and produce toxins in the food. Infant botulism transmission occurs when an infant consumes the spores, which grow in the baby's intestines and produce toxins.

Botulism Transmission: An Overview

Botulism transmission varies based on the type of botulism (see Botulism Types). Unlike infectious diseases, however, botulism transmission does not occur from one person to another.

Foodborne Botulism Transmission

Foodborne botulism transmission occurs through eating foods contaminated with botulinum spores that grow into bacteria and produce botulism toxins in the food. A common cause of botulism food poisoning is improperly preserved home-processed foods with low acid content, such as:
  • Beets
  • Green beans
  • Corn.
Less likely sources include fish products and other commercially processed foods. The actual number of cases of botulism in the United States is small -- approximately 9 outbreaks of foodborne botulism per year, with an average of 2.4 cases per outbreak.

Wound Botulism Transmission

Wound botulism transmission occurs when bacteria that cause botulism (Clostridium botulinum) contaminate a wound, germinate, grow within the wound, and produce toxin that is absorbed into the bloodstream. Wound botulism is associated with crushing injuries and illicit drug use. The increasing number of people who inject black tar heroin from Mexico is a growing concern, because this crude drug can contain Clostridium botulinum spores.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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