Botulism disease in both humans and animals is a worldwide concern. Botulinum neurotoxins produced by Clostridium botulinum and other Clostridium species are the most potent biological substances known and are responsible for flaccid paralysis leading to a high mortality rate. Clostridium botulinum and botulinum neurotoxins are considered potential weapons for bioterrorism and have been included in the Australia Group List of Biological Agents. In 2010 the European Commission (DG Justice, Freedom and Security) funded a 3-year project named AniBioThreat to improve the EU's capacity to counter animal bioterrorism threats. A detection portfolio with screening methods for botulism agents and incidents was needed to improve tracking and tracing of accidental and deliberate contamination of the feed and food chain with botulinum neurotoxins and other Clostridia. The complexity of this threat required acquiring new genetic information to better understand the diversity of these Clostridia and develop detection methods targeting both highly specific genetic markers of these Clostridia and the neurotoxins they are able to produce. Several European institutes participating in the AniBioThreat project collaborated on this program to achieve these objectives. Their scientific developments are discussed here.
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