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Eur J Pediatr. 2001 Oct;160(10):623-8.

Is there a link between infant botulism and sudden infant death? Bacteriological results obtained in central Germany.

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Institute for Tropical Animal Health, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany.


Despite the fact that botulism was described in Germany for the first time by Kerner in 1820, the disease is almost forgotten in this country. Only about 10-20 cases of classical botulism (intoxication) are recorded every year, including 1-2 cases of clinical infant botulism. As we assumed a high incidence of botulism to be connected with cases of sudden infant death (SID), we undertook the research work presented here. From every case of unexpected infant death up to 12 months of age, standardised specimens (blood, liver and intestine) were taken at autopsy. They were tested for the presence of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) and/or bacterial forms of Clostridium botulinum with subsequent BoNT neutralisation tests by the international standard mouse bioassay. Age, sex, pathological findings and season were recorded. Over a 5-year period, 75 samples including 57 SID cases were tested. Free toxin was found in nine and bacterial forms were detected in six samples. Toxin neutralisation revealed the definite presence of BoNT/BoNT producing bacteria (mainly type E), whereas another 11 toxin tests were inconclusive. According to international literature, these 15 cases are to be interpreted as infant botulism.


the results show a remarkable incidence of infant botulism without any known previous medical history, partly hidden as sudden infant death. We propose to systematically search for botulism in connection with sudden infant death.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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