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J Infect Dis. 1992 Dec;166(6):1281-6.

Clinical and laboratory comparison of botulism from toxin types A, B, and E in the United States, 1975-1988.

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  • 1Enteric Diseases Branch, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia 30333.


Cases of adult botulism (n = 309) were studied to identify clinical differences between toxin types and to evaluate the sensitivity of diagnostic laboratory testing. Patients with illness from type E toxin had the shortest incubation periods. Sporadic case-patients were more severely ill: 85% required intubation compared with only 42% in multiperson outbreaks. Of patients with type A botulism, 67% required intubation compared with 52% with type B and 39% with type E. Toxin testing was positive for 40%-44% of serum and stool specimens obtained within 3 days of toxin ingestion and for 15%-23% of specimens obtained thereafter, while 37% of stool specimens obtained > 3 days after toxin ingestion were positive by culture. Patients with type A botulism have more severe illness. In general, specimens obtained early are more likely to be positive by toxin assay, and stool cultures are more sensitive than toxin detection for specimens obtained later in the illness.

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