Woman paralyzed after eating pesto contaminated with botulism

Woman, 47, fighting for her life in a coma after eating pesto from farmer’s market that was ‘contaminated with deadly bacteria’ in Brazil

  • A woman in Brazil was diagnosed with botulism after eating pesto from a market
  • Botulism affects just 110 Americans every year, according to the CDC 
  •  READ MORE: A deadly flesh-eating bacteria is on the rise across US coastlines

A woman in Brazil was left paralyzed after eating pesto that was feared to be contaminated with a deadly bacteria. 

Doralice Carneiro Sobreira Goes, 47, bought a jar of pesto last January from her local farmer’s market, where she was a regular customer. 

However, the next day, she slept for 11 hours, and her body ‘didn’t feel right.’ Within 24 hours, she was completely paralyzed from the neck down. 

Doctors diagnosed Ms Goes with botulism, a rare illness caused by a toxin that forms in the bacteria C. botulinum. Botulism attacks the body’s nerves and causes difficulty breathing, paralysis, and, if left untreated, death. 

Doctors believe Doralice Carneiro Sobreira Goes, 47, from Brazil, contracted botulism from a jar of pesto she got at a farmer’s market. The condition left her paralyzed

Ms Goes spent about a year in the hospital learning how to eat, drink, talk, and walk again

Ms Goes bought the pesto on December 31, 2021, and left it in her pantry for about a month. Its appearance, color, aroma, and flavor all stayed the same. The man who sold it to her didn’t give her any storage instructions, and there was no expiration date printed on the jar. 

‘When I decided to finally have some, it was delicious,’ she told NeedToKnowUK. ‘[The next day], I [slept] for 11 hours straight.’

‘My body didn’t feel right, my breathing had gotten worse, and my tongue felt like it was tingling.’

Ms Goes drove herself to the emergency room, but by the end of the 12-mile drive, her symptoms had gotten drastically worse. 

‘My body stopped working,’ she said. ‘I couldn’t move my body, so I threw myself out [of] the car.’ 

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Doctors rushed her into a CT scan, but she struggled to breathe and couldn’t stop vomiting during the exam. A neurologist noticed she was only able to move two toes. 

Ms Goes was diagnosed with botulism, which affects just over 100 Americans per year. The illness is caused by a toxin released by the bacteria C. botulinum, which is normally found in mostly harmless spores in soil, marine areas, and on the surface of foods like fruits, vegetables, and seafood. 

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the toxin this bacteria produces most commonly forms in foods that are improperly canned at home, such as tomatoes and pickles. 

In Ms Goes’ case, the pesto was red, so it could have been made from tomatoes or peppers. It’s possible the bacteria was in the ingredients used to make the pesto. 

Botulism attacks the nervous system, with symptoms starting within 12 hours of the toxin entering the body. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, double vision, drooping eyelids, blurry vision, slurred speech, difficulty breathing, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Left untreated, it can lead to paralysis and even death. 

The doctors believe the pesto was the most likely cause in Ms Goes’ case. 

She was given an anti-botulin drug, which allowed her move her fingers and speak in small sentences. She also underwent physiotherapy to strengthen her muscles. 

Ms Goes remained in the hospital for about a year to recover from the paralysis. ‘I had treatments every day of the week,’ she said, ‘from myofascial release to analgesia, laser, suction cup[s], pilates to recover muscular tone, strengthening and pulmonary physiotherapy.’

She can now breathe without help and feed herself, as well as walk with a walker. She now is more careful when buying food from restaurants, stores, and fairs. 

“It is now part of my history, and I am to overcome the difficulties I now face,’ she said.

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