“All things are poisons, and there is nothing that is harmless; the dose alone decides that something is a poison.” --Paracelsus (1493-1541). Botulinum toxin is known to be a highly toxic substance. However it is established through clinical research that it is suitable and useful for treatment of several conditions.
Biological activity of the toxin is measured in mouse units, mouse LD50 or simply a 'unit'. A unit is defined as the amount of toxin required to kill 50 percent of a group of Swiss-Webster mice. Making a projection of this data for the human beings, it is understood that 2700-3000 mouse units is the LD50 for a 70 kg human being. For Botox, 5 nanograms is 100 units. Hence, 135-150 nanograms becomes a deadly dose.
A US consumer group led by Ralph Nader has linked 16 deaths due to spreading of botulinum toxin within the body and has requested the authorities for strong warnings. The death of Denda West is a widely reported case. She went through a plastic surgery for a tummy tuck and breast reduction only to die after 24 hours. Later it was learnt that she was not healthy enough to undergo this surgery. So far investigations carried out have not proved conclusively that all the reported deaths were due to Botulinum toxin. All the cases were known to have other health ailments which also could be responsible for their death.
More than a million people have been treated with Botox cosmetic. The complications reported from these treatments are rear. People who are sick with neurological or other serious medical problems are advised not to undertake cosmetic surgical treatment. They may not realize that cosmetic surgery is a serious business and their body may not withstand the stress of surgery. The quantity of Botox used for cosmetic purposes such as wrinkles is in very small doses while for problems like muscle spasms etc. the dose could be as high as 20 times. This could pose problems.
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