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New Source Discovered for Botulinum Neurotoxin

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A new paper published in  Cell Host & Microbe describes the discovery of a novel source for the botulinum neurotoxin, which is known for therapeutic benefits ranging from treatment of migraines, excessive sweating and cardiac conditions, to wrinkles. According to a report by the University of Waterloo, Canadian and American scientists found it in a strain of animal gut bacteria, Enterococcus faecium.

“This is the first time that an active botulinum toxin has been identified outside of Clostridium botulinum and its relatives, which are often found in soil and untreated water,” said Andrew Doxey, one of the study’s lead authors and a bioinformatics professor at the University of Waterloo. “Its discovery has implications in several fields, from monitoring the emergence of new pathogens to the development of new protein therapeutics—it’s a game a changer.”

As stated in the unversity report, the researchers concluded the botulinum toxin was likely transferred from C. botulinum bacteria in the environment into the E. faecium bacteria in the cow’s gut—showing the toxin can be transferred between different species.

Michael Mansfield, a doctoral candidate in Doxey's lab and one of the lead authors added, "The botulinum toxin is a powerful and versatile protein therapeutic. By finding more versions of the toxin in nature, we can potentially expand and optimize its therapeutic applications even further.”

While the cosmetics industry may be focused on less invasive solutions to anti-wrinkle treatments, it could be interesting to see whether a new form of the toxin may more effectively be delivered topically.

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