Research – Botulism outbreak after the consumption of vegetarian pâté in the south of Viet Nam

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Botulism is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum. Here we reported a case series of six patients who presented with botulism following ingestion of commercially made pâté. The key features of presentation were acute onset of bilateral cranial nerve palsies and symmetrical descending weakness in the absence of fever resulting in the need for mechanical ventilation in all six patients. The clinical diagnosis of botulism was confirmed through the identification of C. botulinum from the suspected food source.  Given that botulinum antitoxin was not available in Vietnam at the time, and their severe status, all patients received a trial of plasma exchange therapy, but no clear benefit was seen.
Due to its rarity, diagnosing botulism is a challenge, demanding high clinical suspicion. Successful outcomes depend upon early recognition and rapid initiation of specific treatment with botulinum antitoxin. There is a need to improve global access to antitoxin.  These cases, the first in Viet Nam, serve as a reminder of the need to maintain the highest possible food hygiene and preservation practices.

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