Infectious Diseases: Botulism

Botulism is a flaccid paralysis caused by intoxication of peripheral neurons by neurotoxins produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. These are among the most potent toxins known and are classified by the US Government as a Category A Priority Pathogen the highest risk to national security and public health. For general information about botulism, visit the CDC and NIH websites.

Botulism Therapeutics Projects

The Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health' research is focused on the development of improved therapies to prevent or reverse botulism intoxication. In support of this research, the department has an approved BSL-2 select agent laboratory containing an in vitro cell bioassay core and an in vivo toxin testing core.

Botulism Antitoxins
Charles Shoemaker
This project, funded by the Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (BEID) New England Regional Center of Excellence (NERCE) seeks to develop recombinant antitoxin therapies that prevent symptoms of botulism when administered near the time of exposure. The department's antitoxin technology employs small, recombinant toxin binding agents that neutralize the toxin and target the toxin for rapid clearance from the body. This technology is described in more detail on the Recombinant Antitoxins page.
Botulism Antidotes
Charles Shoemaker
With NIH R21 funding, we are developing botulism antidotes in collaboration with Synaptic Research LLC. The strategy is to employ targeted F-box (TFB) agents that accelerate the ubiquitination and turnover of botulinum toxin protease within intoxicated cells. To deliver the TFB agents to intoxicated neurons in patients, the department is developing viral-based and toxin-based delivery vehicles. This technology is described in more detail on the Biomolecular Antidotes page.
Tufts in Vitro Bioassay Core
Jean Mukherjee
This core is responsible for the development and performance of botulism bioassays in neuronal cell culture systems.
Tufts in Vivo Toxin Testing Core
Jean Mukherjee
This core is responsible for testing the efficacy of therapeutic agents to treat botulism post-exposure or to reverse existing intoxication.