Occurrence of Clostridium botulinum Neurotoxin in chronic disease of dairy cows
Botulism caused by neurotoxins of Clostridium (C.) botulinum is a rare, but serious life-threatening disease in humans and animals. Botulism in livestock is usually caused by the oral uptake of C. botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) via contaminated feed and is characterized by a flaccid paralysis. In the recent past a new syndrome caused by BoNT in dairy cattle was postulated. It was supposed that C. botulinum is able to colonize in the lower intestine and may subsequently produce neurotoxin. The continuous resorption of small amounts of these BoNT may then provoke the so called syndrome of “chronic” or “visceral” botulism involving unspecific clinical symptoms, reduced performance of dairy cows and massive animal losses in the affected herd. To test this hypothesis a case-control study was conducted involving 92 affected farms and 47 control farms located in Northern Germany. Fecal samples of 1,388 animals were investigated for the presence of BoNT to verify the key requirement of the hypothesis of chronic botulism. BoNT was not detected in any of the fecal samples using the most sensitive standard method for BoNT detection, the mouse bioassay. Therefore, the existence of “chronic” or “visceral” botulism could not be proven.