Clostridium botulinum is the most important pathogen of this genus and it produces a potent heat-labile botulinum neurotoxin. The toxin is responsible for the disease, botulism, which occurs in humans and animals and is considered an agent for bioterrorism.
Botulism presents as a progressive, descending, symmetric weakness or paralysis. It invariably begins with cranial nerve palsies, including dilated or nonreactive pupils in 50%.
The global epidemiology of foodborne botulism has been shape by regional diet and soil ecology. Perhaps any food can caused botulism if it is contaminated with a neurotoxigenic clostridium, processed and stored under permissive conditions.
The consumption of as little as 0.1 g of food in which C. botulinum or other neurotoxin producing clostridia have grown can result in botulism. Fatality rate is approximately 10% of cases; this is very high for a foodborne illness.
Food botulism accounts for approximately 1000 cases per year worldwide, of which approximately 30 occurs in the United States. Home processed foods account for 94% of United States cases.