1. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Diagnosing Botulism Poisoning

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Catrin Lewis, Jul 23, 2017.

    I've decided to have my villain try to poison one of my MC's clients, but he won't succeed in killing him. He's going to use black caviar adulterated with botulism toxin.

    My idea is to create the effect that the victim "should have" died, if not for the quick thinking, last-minute intervention, whatever, of Dr. So-and-so. (Cue dramatic music.)

    I understand that it takes a few hours for botulism to do its dirty work, and the symptoms are often confused with several other maladies. Assuming the victim goes to a doctor, what would tip off a reasonably-savvy physician to test for botulism and not put it down to some other kind of food poisoning? Particularly if the remains of that jar of caviar have mysteriously disappeared from the victim's private office fridge?

    Since botulism affects speech, would the victim be able to give any clues?

    And oh, yeah: How hard would it be for a very wealthy person get hold of botulism toxin in the early 1980s?
     
  2. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Mayo Clinic Botulism symptoms
    Botulism toxin wouldn't be that hard to get ahold of.

    Most ED docs would consider botulism if a patient presented with the above symptoms because it is a known possibility, not something completely unexpected like cyanide. For cyanide one would need to consider murder or attempted murder and an ED doc might not go down that road, or they might. But botulism only requires one consider common poison risks.

    I think you could safely write in the victim giving some clues at the author's discretion before the symptoms became too severe. :)
     
  3. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The tricky part will be getting the timing right. When I was in college I read a novel, I forget its name, in which a lone bio-terrorist was slipping botulism toxin into various foodstuffs all over New York City, and if I remember right, the author had the victims dying within hours of ingesting it. Like, one was an opera singer who had a tuna sandwich for lunch and collapsed and died that very night on the stage at the Met. But if I read the Mayo Clinic article right, you can be walking around (unsteadily, but walking around) for a good day or two after ingestion. I mean, it talks about making an appointment with your doctor if you suspect botulism, not necessarily going to the emergency room.

    I really don't want to stretch it out like that. But if the toxin has been put into the food rather than growing there naturally, maybe it could be a lot stronger and work faster than it normally would.

    (I realize that the character will have to go through rehab and won't be bouncing around fully recovered a week later. I also realize that this is going to load a lot more vicarious guilt on my MMC. I'll deal with that later.)
     
  4. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You can adjust your character's symptoms to fit your story by choosing the dose she ingests.
     

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