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Warning over 'dirty' heroin after outbreak of botulism
ALISON HARDIE HEALTH CORRESPONDENT
A BATCH of "dirty" heroin was blamed last night for an outbreak of botulism among drug users in Scotland.
A doctor has issued an urgent warning after four cases of the potentially fatal infection came to light.
The affected addicts are from Glasgow and the Grampian area, although it is not clear if the same batch of contaminated heroin was to blame for all the cases.
All three of the Glasgow victims showed evidence of serious skin or intramuscular infection that would be associated with "muscle-popping", injecting straight into the muscle or under the skin.
Dr Helene Irvine, consultant in public health medicine with NHS Greater Glasgow, said: "We would warn injecting drug users against injecting into the muscle or under the skin. This is an extremely dangerous practice and is the probable route for the bacterium entering the body."
In 2000, 23 drug users in Scotland - 18 from Glasgow - were killed by the Clostridium novyi bug, which blackens the skin and causes liver and kidney failure, after contaminated heroin circulated.
Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. There are two ways of becoming infected - penetrating soft tissue with a contaminated object or swallowing the bacteria in food. Both can be fatal.
The symptoms include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty in swallowing, dry mouth and muscle weakness.
I'm taking a microbiology class, and we were talking about c. botulinum. The toxin itself can be also absorbed through the skin or you can inhale it in the air. I don't think the people at the scotsman are very educated on this subject.