Infant botulism is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. It grows inside a baby's gastrointestinal tract.
Clostridium botulinum is a spore-forming organism that is common in nature. The spores may be found in soil and certain foods (such as honey and some corn syrups).
Infant botulism occurs mostly in young infants between 6 weeks and 6 months of age. It may occur as early as early as 6 days and as late as 1 year.
Risk factors include swallowing honey as a baby, being around contaminated soil, and having less than one stool per day for a period greater than 2 months.
Symptoms may include:
Botulism immune globulin is the main treatment for this condition. Infants that get this treatment have shorter hospital stays and milder illness.
Any infant with botulism must receive supportive care during their recovery. This includes:
If breathing problems develop, breathing support, including the use of a breathing machine, may be needed.
Antibiotics do not appear to help the baby improve any faster. Therefore, they are not needed unless another bacterial infection such as pneumonia develops.
The use of human-derived botulinum antitoxin may also be helpful.
When the condition is detected and treated early, the child most often makes a full recovery. Death or permanent disability may result in complicated cases.
Respiratory insufficiency can develop. This would require assistance with breathing (mechanical ventilation).
Infant botulism can be life threatening. Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) right away if your infant has symptoms of botulism.
In theory, the disease might be avoided by preventing exposure to spores. Clostridium spores are found in honey and corn syrup. These foods should not be fed to infants less than 1 year old.
Birch TB, Bleck TP. Botulism (Clostridium botulinum). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 245.
Khouri JM, Arnon SS. Infant botulism. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 147.
Norton LE, Schleiss MR. Botulism (Clostridium botulinum). In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 237.
There are no recent clinical trials available for this condition. Please check back because new trials are being conducted frequently.