What is Botox?

Botox! Yikes, isn’t that a very deadly poison? The answer is no. That would be Botulism, a serious and life-threatening illness. But they come from the same source: Botulinum toxin.

Botulinum toxin is a protein and neuro-toxin produced by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. It can cause botulism, a deadly disease. Another form of it, with the popular trade name Botox, is what is used today for cosmetic purposes.

Justinus Kerner, a 19th century German poet and medical writer called Clostridium botulinum the “sausage bacteria” because it was found on improperly handled or prepared meat and sausage. It was in 1895 that Emile P. Van Ermengem isolated the microbe and discovered that it produced a toxin from a piece of ham that had poisoned 34 people.

The modern therapeutic form of Botox (BTX-A) was used by Professor Edward Schanks who began working with the bacterium in 1944 while working for the US Army at Fort Detrick, Maryland investigating germ warfare. In the 1960′s, ophthalmologist Alan Scott collaborated with Schantz and by 1973 began injecting it into monkeys. In 1978 he got government approval to inject it into humans.

The secret to Botox is that it causes the controlled weakening of the muscles near the injection site. Results of the treatment can be seen within 3-4 days with the peak effect at 10-14 days. The effects last for four to six months, and must then be repeated.

In 1988, the company Allergen bought the rights to sell BTX-A (Oculinum, as it was called) and shortly after received approval to use it for crossed-eyes and facial spasms. In the early 1990′s, Canadian Ophthalmologists Jean Carruthers was using it on patients to relieve eyelid spasms and noticed that some of the patients were losing their frown lines. She and her husband published a study in a medical journal reporting that though temporary treatment with Botox was a safe and simple procedure for reducing brow wrinkles. Cosmetic surgeons and other practitioners took notice. By 1997, it’s use took off.

In April 2002, the FDA approved Botox for use in reducing frown lines between the eyebrows. Botox is an incredibly useful tool for reducing wrinkles for forehead, crow’s feet, and between the eyes. It can also be used on smoker’s wrinkles and the chin. Botox can help make the eyes much more attractive. It has also been useful for the treatment of muscle pain and is now commonly used to treat migraine headaches.

To repeat, Botox treatments are safe and delay the signs of aging. At the end of 2006, the sales of this treatment passed one billion dollars with over half for cosmetic purposes. As of 2007 Botox injection is the most common cosmetic operation.