Botulism is a rare but severe neurological disease in man and animals that is caused by botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) produced by Clostridium botulinum
and atypical strains from other Clostridium
species. BoNTs are divided into more than seven toxinotypes based on neutralization with specific corresponding antisera, and each toxinotype is subdivided into subtypes according to amino acid sequence variations. Animal species show variable sensitivity to the different BoNT toxinotypes. Thereby, naturally acquired animal botulism is mainly due to BoNT/C, D and the mosaic variants CD and DC, BoNT/CD being more prevalent in birds and BoNT/DC in cattle, whereas human botulism is more frequently in the types A, B and E, and to a lower extent, F. Botulism is not a contagious disease, since there is no direct transmission from diseased animals or man to a healthy subject. Botulism occurs via the environment, notably from food contaminated with C. botulinum
spores and preserved in conditions favorable for C. botulinum
growth and toxin production. The high prevalence of botulism types C, D and variants DC and CD in farmed and wild birds, and to a lower extent in cattle, raises the risk of transmission to human beings. However, human botulism is much rarer than animal botulism, and botulism types C and D are exceptional in humans. Only 15 cases or suspected cases of botulism type C and one outbreak of botulism type D have been reported in humans to date. In contrast, animal healthy carriers of C. botulinum
group II, such as C. botulinum
type E in fish of the northern hemisphere, and C. botulinum
B4 in pigs, represent a more prevalent risk of botulism transmission to human subjects. Less common botulism types in animals but at risk of transmission to humans, can sporadically be observed, such as botulism type E in farmed chickens in France (1998–2002), botulism type B in cattle in The Netherlands (1977–1979), botulism types A and B in horses, or botulism type A in dairy cows (Egypt, 1976). In most cases, human and animal botulisms have distinct origins, and cross transmissions between animals and human beings are rather rare, accidental events. But, due to the severity of this disease, human and animal botulism requires a careful surveillance.