September 25, 2021

Possible Botulism Treatment Breakthrough Reverses Paralysis

A possible botulism treatment breakthrough that reverses paralysis in mice has been announced by scientists at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Botulism food poisoning can be deadly. It is caused by the botulinum toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum spores.

Possible Botulism Treatment Breakthrough Reverses Paralysis

The spores grow in a low acid, anaerobic environment (without oxygen) such as in improperly canned foods. A tiny amount of the toxin can kill an adult human being. The spores are found in soil, dust, and in foods such as honey.

Early treatment is key in recovery, since once paralysis starts, it cannot be reversed. That is what makes this new treatment so exciting.

Min Dong, Ph.D., a researcher in the Boston Children’s Hospital Department of Urology and corresponding author of the paper said in a statement, “Currently, there are anti-toxins, but these only work before the toxins enter the motor neurons.¬†What we have developed is the first therapy that can eliminate toxins after they get inside neurons.”

Scientists have discovered that a modified botulinum toxin can enter nerve cells and deliver a miniature antibody that reversed paralysis in mice. The treatment also let the mice withstand formerly lethal doses of the toxin.

The two challenges the researchers faced were getting the treatment across the cell membrane, and targeting motor neurons and nerve terminals. Botulinum neurotoxins accomplish both tasks naturally. In addition, the new toxin is not toxic even after it has mutated, so it is “a safe delivery tool.”

This new botulism treatment breakthrough could also help people who have received cosmetic botox treatment and have suffered muscle paralysis as a result. The protein may be able to get rid of the paralysis in a few hours. And doctors may also be able to use the toxin-guided approach to get biologic drugs into neurons to treat other disorders.

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