Islamabad - Farheen Jawad and Sumbal Riaz - In our everyday life, we are exposed to a number of toxins present in our environment without even realizing it. Toxins are basically the poisonous substances produced by organisms. One of the most poisonous and life threatening toxic substances known is the botulinum toxin. It is a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).It acts at peripheral cholinergic synapses that blocks the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

There are seven distinct serotypes of botulinum toxin (A, B, C1, C2, D, E, F and G). Most potent of them is the type A toxin followed by types B and F toxin. Types A, B and E are commonly associated with botulism in humans. Though quite rare, botulism is a very serious paralytic illness. There are five main kinds of botulism. Food borne botulism is caused by consuming foods containing botulinum toxin, Wound botulism is caused when a wound is infected with clostridium botulinum. Infant botulism occurs when the spores of botulinum producing bacteria which upon reaching the intestine release toxins. Adult intestinal toxemia botulism is similar to infant botulism with the difference that it is comparatively rare and occurs in adults instead. A kind of botulism caused by overdose of botulinum toxin is known as iatrogenic botulism. All routes of exposure cause severe toxicity in the victim. (www.cdc.gov)

Foods that are not preserved properly are mostly considered as the culprits of causing botulism but in many other cases, it was observed to be caused by freshly prepared foods that are improperly refrigerated. A mild attack of botulism makes a person suffer from symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, cramps and weakness while the people suffering from severe toxicity experience respiratory paralysis and peripheral muscular weakness. (www.toxipedia.org)

This lethal and life threatening toxin, the botulinum, does not only cause adverse health effects by making botulism as its weapon. A famous drug called Botox is used nowadays to treat facial wrinkles and makes you look years younger. This drug is also produced from botulinum toxin and works by paralyzing the muscles of that particular area. Although it may be considered as a wonder in the dermatological world, yet it too causes harm.

It has been recently noticed that Botox can also affect other parts of the body and can lead to difficulty in breathing and swallowing. In some cases, people who underwent Botox treatment also suffered from speech disorders. The worst side effects of Botox include drooping eyelids, inability to close eyes and a number of various other noticeable changes in the facial expressions which also include uneven smile. The inappropriate amount of the Botox injection and inexperience can lead to these permanent side effects.

We cannot deny the fact that botulinum toxin acts as a biological weapon that helps in the treatment of different diseases but it is lethal too. Though the problems caused by botulinum toxin are rare but prevention is always better than cure so we can avoid exposure to botulinum toxin by a number of ways. We can limit our exposure to this lethal toxin by practicing good food hygiene. Heat acts a villain for these botulinum toxins as they are killed in the process so we have to make sure that we never eat undercooked foods. Improperly canned foods should also be avoided. We can find other healthy and cost effective alternatives for making our skin look younger and wrinkle free like consuming more fruits and drinking plenty of water every day can help a lot.

 These simple measures can save us from the toxic effects of botulinum toxin.