New Elements To Consider When Modeling the Hazards Associated with Botulinum Neurotoxin in Food

Adaoha E C Ihekwaba, Ivan Mura, Pradeep K Malakar, John Walshaw, Michael W Peck, G C Barker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) produced by the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum are the most potent biological substances known to mankind. BoNTs are the agents responsible for botulism, a rare condition affecting the neuromuscular junction and causing a spectrum of diseases ranging from mild cranial nerve palsies to acute respiratory failure and death. BoNTs are a potential biowarfare threat and a public health hazard, since outbreaks of foodborne botulism are caused by the ingestion of preformed BoNTs in food. Currently, mathematical models relating to the hazards associated with C. botulinum, which are largely empirical, make major contributions to botulinum risk assessment. Evaluated using statistical techniques, these models simulate the response of the bacterium to environmental conditions. Though empirical models have been successfully incorporated into risk assessments to support food safety decision making, this process includes significant uncertainties so that relevant decision making is frequently conservative and inflexible. Progression involves encoding into the models cellular processes at a molecular level, especially the details of the genetic and molecular machinery. This addition drives the connection between biological mechanisms and botulism risk assessment and hazard management strategies. This review brings together elements currently described in the literature that will be useful in building quantitative models of C. botulinum neurotoxin production. Subsequently, it outlines how the established form of modeling could be extended to include these new elements. Ultimately, this can offer further contributions to risk assessments to support food safety decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-211
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number2
Early online date8 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2015 Ihekwaba et al.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.


  • Botulinum Toxins/chemistry
  • Clostridium botulinum/metabolism
  • Food Contamination
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Structure
  • Neurotoxins/chemistry
  • Risk Factors


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