A married couple from Germany were left paralyzed and fighting for their lives in intensive care for about 5 months. They fell ill after eating home-canned green beans.
The 47-year-old woman and her 51-year-old husband were diagnosed with botulism — a rare but probably life-threatening bacterial illness caused by a powerful toxin which can leave the body in a vegetative state — after eating the green beans, according to the Journal of Medical Case Reports.
Their son luckily managed to avoid the terrible illness when he refused to eat the green beans which he thought had “an odd odor.”
The woman began to experience dizziness, double vision, droopy eyes and also struggled to speak about 8 hours before being admitted to a hospital near Leipzig. A day later, her condition radically deteriorated. She was placed on life support after her body became paralyzed and her lungs began to fail.
The husband – who had consumed a smaller portion of the beans – suffered similar symptoms which were less severe. He was admitted to the same hospital a day later. His condition also deteriorated and he was eventually placed on life support as well.
After some testing, the beans were found to contain botulinum toxin A. Blood tests on the woman revealed she had the same toxin in her bloodstream, while tests on her husband were inconclusive.
Unfortunately, the recovery of the couple was vulnerable as doctors were not able to administer the botulism antitoxin – only effective when used within 24 hours of exposure to the toxin. By the time the botulism diagnosis was made, it had already been 72 hours since the couple ate the beans.
The wife required life support for almost five and a half months, while her husband was on life support for four and a half months, according to the journal.
Fortunately, both then went on to recover in rehabilitation, and after 11 months of hospitalization for the wife, and eight months of hospitalization for the husband, their symptoms totally disappeared. However, the 47-year-old still suffers from a depressive adaptive disorder from the ordeal.
According to the World Health Organization, botulinum toxins are one of the most lethal substances known and can block nerve functions leading to respiratory and muscular paralysis.
It is usually caused by “consumption of improperly processed food, is a rare but potentially fatal disease if not diagnosed rapidly and treated with antitoxin.”
“Homemade canned, preserved or fermented foodstuffs are a common source of foodborne botulism and their preparation requires extra caution,” the organization warns.
There are less than 10 cases per year in Germany and there have been approximately 113 cases in the EU per year from 2008 to 2012, according to the journal.
In a similar case back in 2017, three adults in New Zealand contracted botulism after eating wild boar.
Shibu Kochummen, 35, brought the boar home after a hunting trip that day, and he, his wife Subi Babu, 32, and his mother, Alekutty Daniel, 62, ate it for dinner. They began to suffer about half an hour after they started eating.