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Botulism: a rare complication of injecting drug use
  1. T N Wenham
  1. Dr T N Wenham, 2 Kensington Court, Lodge Moor, Sheffield, S10 4NL, UK; timwenham{at}


Botulism is a rare, naturally occurring disease that may also be caused by deliberate or accidental exposure to the toxins of Clostridium botulinum. The three types of naturally occurring disease are food-borne, wound and intestinal colonisation botulism, dependent on the route of ingress of the toxins. Food related botulism remains rare in the UK, but wound botulism is increasing, particularly associated with intravenous drug use. It presents with an afebrile, descending, symmetrical, flaccid paralysis of motor and autonomic but not sensory nerves. Respiratory failure can occur rapidly with little prior ventilatory deterioration. Management includes respiratory support, specific antitoxin and surgical debridement and antibiotics for cases of wound botulism. We report a case of wound botulism and discuss the presenting features that should alert the emergency physician to the diagnosis of wound botulism.

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  • Informed consent was obtained for publication of this case report and figures 1 and 2.

  • Competing interests: None.

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