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Suspected botulism in dairy cows and its implications for the safety of human food
  1. S. P. Cobb, BSc, BVM&S,MRCVS1,
  2. R. A. Hogg, BVSc, MVSc,MRCVS2,
  3. D. J. Challoner, BVM&S,MRCVS3,
  4. R. T. Sharpe, BA, BVetMed,BSc, MSc, MRCVS3,
  5. M. M. Brett, PhD4,
  6. C. T. Livesey, BVSc, MSc,MRCVS5 and
  7. T. O. Jones, MBE, BVSc,CBiol, MIBiol, FRCVS6
  1. 1 Veterinary Laboratories Agency, The Elms, College Road, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough LE12 5RB
  2. 2 Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Barton Hall, Garstang Road, Barton, Preston PR3 5HE
  3. 3 Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Longbenton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE12 9SE
  4. 4 Food Safety Microbiology Laboratory, Central Public Health Laboratory Service, Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5HT
  5. 5 Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Woodham Lane, New Haw, Addlestone KT15 3NB
  6. 6 Eaton Lodge, 10 Station Road, East Leake LE12 60Q

Abstract

A large outbreak of suspected botulism occurred on a dairy farm. The affected animals were listless and showed signs ranging from hindlimb unsteadiness to lateral recumbency, although the most common presentation was sternal recumbency with an apparent hindlimb weakness when stimulated to rise. Postmortem examinations revealed no conclusive gross pathology or histopathology. The affected cattle were found to have neutrophilia and hyperglycaemia with no other consistent haematological or biochemical abnormalities. The combination of clinical signs, disease epidemiology and the ruling out of other differential diagnoses strongly supported a diagnosis of unconfirmed botulism; however, the source of toxin was not demonstrated. Botulism is a severe disease in human beings and there are uncertainties about the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of Clostridium botulinum toxins. In such circumstances, a precautionary approach to food safety is essential. Restrictions were placed on the movement of livestock and sale of milk from the farm premises until 14 days after the onset of the last clinical case.

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