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Chapter 8 : Botox and Dairy Cows
Botulism is considered to be well characterized when compared with other infections. Textbooks portray the neurotoxins of Clostridium botulinum, the pathogenesis and symptomology of the disease, and its investigation as one of the tidiest sectors of medical microbiology. The investigators' dedicated efforts to achieve both of these ends were stymied by difficulties ranging from the inadequacy of laboratory tests for botulism to uncertainties about the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of C. botulinum toxins. Serum samples taken from three dying cows, screened by the conventional bioassay in mice, failed to show any evidence of C. botulinum neurotoxins. The gaps in knowledge made it difficult to evaluate the implications of the outbreak for human health. First, while cattle are usually affected by C. botulinum type C or D, they can also succumb to type B, one of the strains that are responsible for the disease in humans. Secondly, the pharmacokinetics of the neurotoxins is surrounded by comparable uncertainty. This chapter emphasizes that meat from suspect cases of botulism, or from healthy animals which have been exposed to a source of botulinum toxin, should be considered a potential health risk to human beings or animals if it has not been cooked properly. Meanwhile, medical anxieties about so-called Botox treatment, the fastest growing cosmetic procedure in the United States, have been growing. There is, of course, no significant link between the uncertainties surrounding botulinum neurotoxin on the farm and the confidence with which antiwrinkle advocates peddle their wares at Botox parties.