Bacillus Cereus Food Poisoning and Its Toxins

J Food Prot. 2005 Mar;68(3):636-48. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-68.3.636.


The genus Bacillus includes members that demonstrate a wide range of diversity from physiology and ecological niche to DNA sequence and gene regulation. The species of most interest tend to be known for their pathogenicity and are closely linked genetically. Bacillus anthracis causes anthrax, and Bacillus thuringiensis is widely used for its insecticidal properties but has also been associated with foodborne disease. Bacillus cereus causes two types of food poisoning, the emetic and diarrheal syndromes, and a variety of local and systemic infections. Although in this review we provide information on the genus and a variety of species, the primary focus is on the B. cereus strains and toxins that are involved in foodborne illness. B. cereus produces a large number of potential virulence factors, but for the majority of these factors their roles in specific infections have not been established. To date, only cereulide and the tripartite hemolysin BL have been identified specifically as emetic and diarrheal toxins, respectively. Nonhemolytic enterotoxin, a homolog of hemolysin BL, also has been associated with the diarrheal syndrome. Recent findings regarding these and other putative enterotoxins are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus cereus / classification
  • Bacillus cereus / isolation & purification*
  • Bacillus cereus / metabolism
  • Bacillus cereus / pathogenicity
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques
  • Enterotoxins
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / etiology
  • Foodborne Diseases / pathology
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Species Specificity


  • Enterotoxins
  • enterotoxin, Bacillus cereus