Kinds of Botulism
The five main kinds of botulism are:
- Infant botulism can happen if the spores of the bacteria get into an infant’s intestines. The spores grow and produce the toxin which causes illness.
- Wound botulism can happen if the spores of the bacteria get into a wound and make a toxin. People who inject drugs have a greater chance of getting wound botulism. Wound botulism has also occurred in people after a traumatic injury, such as a motorcycle accident, or surgery.
- Foodborne botulism can happen by eating foods that have been contaminated with botulinum toxin. Common sources of foodborne botulism are homemade foods that have been improperly canned, preserved, or fermented. Though uncommon, store-bought foods also can be contaminated with botulinum toxin.
- Iatrogenic botulism can happen if too much botulinum toxin is injected for cosmetic reasons, such as for wrinkles, or medical reasons, such as for migraine headaches.
- Adult intestinal toxemia (also known as adult intestinal colonization) botulism is a very rare kind of botulism that can happen if the spores of the bacteria get into an adult’s intestines, grow, and produce the toxin (similar to infant botulism). Although we don’t know why people get this kind of botulism, people who have serious health conditions that affect the gut may be more likely to get sick.
All kinds of botulism can be fatal and are medical emergencies. If you or someone you know has symptoms of botulism, see your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.
Page last reviewed: June 1, 2021