Botulism is one of the distinctive diseases known to humankind. Botulism is characterized by a flaccid paralysis progressing to suffocation and death in severe cases that do not receive adequate treatment. Botulism is caused by clostridial neurotoxins with extraordinary potency and neurospecificity. The disease is a true toxemia, in which the neurotoxins are the responsible agents, and the bacteria are not directly involved in paralytic symptoms. Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) is produced by strains of neurotoxigenic clostridia, including Clostridium botulinum, as well as rare strains of Clostridium baratii and Clostridium butyricum. During the past two decades, because of new knowledge about the cellular biology and pharmacology of BoNT, this toxin has become an important tool in cell biology and for the understanding of disease and has stimulated much interest in its actions on the human nervous system. Interest in BoNT has also been raised by awareness of its possible use in bioterrorism, yet the most remarkable discovery that has resulted from investigation of BoNT is its use as a pharmaceutical for the treatment of a myriad of neuronal and hyperactive muscle disorders. © 2005 Elsevier.
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