Foodborne botulism, a forgotten yet life-threatening disease: a case report

Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2022 Jul;26(13):4770-4773. doi: 10.26355/eurrev_202207_29202.


Objective: Botulism is a very rare disease in Switzerland, with less than one case per year, an incidence of 0.01 cases for 100,000 inhabitants. Indeed, over the past ten years, 9 cases have been reported to Public Health registry. Foodborne botulism (FB) is caused by ingestion of preformed botulinum neurotoxin. Characteristic features should be rapidly recognized, and prompt treatment should be administered to avoid further progression towards respiratory failure and death.

Case report: We report the case of a patient who developed gastrointestinal symptoms just after a sandwich consumption followed by rapidly progressive cranial nerve impairment, truncal muscle weakness in a descending pattern and respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation. The diagnosis of foodborne botulism was delayed due to differential diagnosis considerations. Specific antitoxin therapy was administered immediately after firm clinical conviction of botulism, without waiting for serologic results that later confirmed the diagnosis. As expected, muscle weakness recovery was slow, with persistent chronic deficits nine years later.

Conclusions: This case highlights differential diagnosis issues of botulism. These include acute neuromuscular disorders such as myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, or tick-borne encephalitis. The importance of careful medical history and repeated clinical evaluation to avoid misdiagnosis can be lifesaving. Our case highlights the typical warning signs.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Botulinum Toxins* / therapeutic use
  • Botulism* / diagnosis
  • Botulism* / epidemiology
  • Botulism* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Muscle Weakness / etiology
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Respiratory Insufficiency*


  • Botulinum Toxins