Botox is a prescription medicine, which has lots of excellent medical uses. It’s also used to treat wrinkles! However, some people assume that it might be possible to become infected with Botulism, if they have Botox injections. 

According to the World Health Organisation, “The bacterium C. botulinum is the same bacterium that is used to produce Botox, a pharmaceutical product predominantly injected for clinical and cosmetic use. Botox treatments employ the purified and heavily diluted botulinum neurotoxin type A. Treatment is administered in the medical setting, tailored according to the needs of the patient and is usually well tolerated although occasional side effects are observed.”

The Birth of a Billion Dollar Business

When the effects of Botox were first discovered back in the 80’s the original husband and wife team were considered to be quite bonkers. A husband and wife team, Jean and Alastair Carruthers, accidentally recognised the side effects of the use of the toxin, most commonly used by ophthalmologists. What they learned, and later presented to fellow medical professionals, was to change the face of the beauty industry forever. Jean first practised on herself, and then her own secretary, before going to clinical trials. There’s a fascinating article by Katerine Asherberg here on Readers Digest: The Real History of the Birth of Botox. It’s well worth a read. 

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The Science Bit

Botulinum toxin is a neurotoxic protein that is produced by the bacterium Clostidium botulinum. So yes, when people say it’s related to Botulism, they’re not lying. However, botulism is a rare and potentially fatal illness, caused by the same bacterium. The toxin prevents the release of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. 

There are eight types of botulinum toxin, named type A–H. Type A and B are capable of causing disease in humans, and are also used commercially and medically. Botulinum toxin types A and B are used in medicine to treat things like muscle spasms. The commercial form is marketed under the brand name Botox, among others. For more information, check out this fact sheet from the World Health Organisation. 

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