Botulism: Pesto sauce almost kills woman

On January 25, 2022, public servant Doralice Carneiro began to feel extreme weakness in her body and to roll her tongue while at work. Thinking it was the beginning of a stroke, she decided to go to the emergency room at a hospital in Águas Claras, in the Federal District.

Upon arriving there, Doralice fainted in a wheelchair that was at the reception. Not understanding what was happening, the medical team sent the patient for a CT scan with contrast. During the procedure, she suffered bouts of vomiting, stopped breathing and ended up needing to be intubated.

The doctors’ hypothesis was a trunk stroke, as Dora, who is now 46 years old, could not move her arms and legs or display facial expressions. The diagnosis of severe bacterial infection was obtained after consulting a neurologist.

Upon examining the patient’s eyes and noticing the absence of a reflex and the dilated pupil, the doctor suggested to his colleagues that the public servant had botulism.

The case, according to the standard protocol, was communicated to the Sanitary Surveillance of the Midwest, which collected samples of food stored in the woman’s refrigerator. An open pesto sauce, a portion of salmon and the remains of canned tuna were sent to the Adolf Lutz laboratory, in São Paulo.

Two months later, with Doralice still hospitalized, the result came out and confirmed the presence of butolinic toxin in the pesto sauce. She had bought the handmade product at a fair in the DF. The other two foods – salmon and tuna – did not test positive for the toxin.


serious bacterial disease

Botulism is a serious, non-contagious bacterial infection. the bacteria Clostridium botulinumresponsible for contamination, produces a toxin that, even if ingested in small amounts, can lead to severe poisoning within hours.

The patient develops botulism after ingesting contaminated food, which was produced or stored improperly. The most common are canned vegetables, especially handmade ones, smoked meat and fish.

fight for survival

After 15 days of hospitalization, the doctors performed a tracheostomy on Doralice and complications began to appear. “Everything stopped but my brain and heart,” she says.

The server was being fed through a gastric tube and, in one episode, there was a leak that almost caused a generalized infection. She needed two months of hemodialysis, in addition to four blood transfusions. On the hospital premises, she contracted Covid-19 and a superbug.

Damage beyond health

On December 5, 2022, almost a year after admission, Doralice was finally discharged. At home, she still spent almost four months walking with the help of a walker and, to this day, she feels weak and in a lot of pain.

As if the damage to her health were not enough, Doralice went into debt. She owes almost BRL 400,000 in co-payment to her health plan due to the 10 months in the ICU and the 40 days in the hospital room. Currently, Doralice has weekly physiotherapy sessions and is in contact with lawyers to file a lawsuit against the makers of the sauce.

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