Guelph Food Safety Seminar (GFSS) Seminar - Botulism in Canada

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Botulism in Canada


Richard Harris, PhD, Laboratory Technician Botulism Reference Service for Canada, Bureau of Microbial Hazards, Health Canada Abstract: Botulism is a neuroparalytic disease that can lead to long-term physical disability and death. Botulism is caused by the anaerobic spore-forming Gram-positive bacterium Clostridium botulinum that produces the most potent toxin known, the botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT). BoNTs cleave presynaptic vesicle proteins responsible for acetylcholine release into neuromuscular junctions, resulting in flaccid paralysis. Botulism is classified according to the route of entry of BoNTs: foodborne botulism is a result of ingesting foods containing BoNT that were previously contaminated with viable C. botulinum and permitted to grow, while infant botulism is caused by colonization of the intestines by C. botulinum spores and the subsequent production of BoNTs in situ. This seminar provides a summary of foodborne botulism and infant botulism in Canada focusing on trends of the past 15 years and looking forward to a future focused on disease prevention.


Richard is a laboratory technician at Health Canada working for the Botulism Reference Service for Canada with supervisor Dr. John Austin, who has recently retired. In the three years since working at Health Canada he has authored or co-authored 9 peer-reviewed publications on the subject of botulism and represented Canada at three consecutive meetings of the Interagency Botulism Research Coordinating Committee. Richard’s research interests are primarily concerned with discovering the source of C. botulinum spores for cases of infant botulism.

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