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J Forensic Sci. 2010 Nov;55(6):1649-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2010.01470.x.

Autopsy findings in botulinum toxin poisoning.

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  • 1University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Department of Pathology, MSC08 4640, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.


In the United States, foodborne botulism is most commonly associated with home-canned food products. Between 1950 and 2005, 405 separate outbreaks of botulism were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 8% of these outbreaks were attributed to commercially produced canned food products. Overall, 5-10% of persons ingesting botulinum toxin die. Few reports exist pertaining to autopsy findings in cases of foodborne botulism. Here, we report the autopsy findings of a man who died after a prolonged illness caused by botulinum toxin exposure likely attributable to a commercially prepared food source. Despite extensive testing, our histopathologic findings were nonspecific. We therefore conclude that the forensic pathologist must become familiar with the neurotoxicity syndrome associated with this illness. Maintaining vigilance for botulism by carefully reviewing the decedent's clinical history will aid in the early identification and control of outbreaks, either foodborne or terrorism-related.

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