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 at the local farmers market, where she was a regular customer.
However, the next day she slept for eleven hours and her body “didn’t feel right.” Within 24 hours she was completely paralyzed from the neck down.
Doctors determined that Mrs. Goes has botulism, a rare disease caused by a toxin that forms in the bacterium C. botulinum. Botulism attacks the body’s nerves, causing breathing difficulties, paralysis and, if left untreated, death.
Doctors believe Doralice Carneiro Sobreira Goes, 47, from Brazil, contracted botulism from a jar of pesto she bought at a farmer’s market. The condition left her paralyzed
Mrs. Goes spent about a year in the hospital to learn to eat, drink, talk and walk again
Mrs. Goes bought the pesto on December 31, 2021 and left it in her pantry for about a month. The appearance, color, aroma and taste all remained the same. The man who sold it to her gave her no storage instructions and there was no expiration date printed on the jar.
“When I finally decided to eat some of it, it was delicious,” she told NeedToKnowUK. “(The next day) I (slept) for 11 hours straight.”
‘My body didn’t feel good, 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 ride, her symptoms had worsened dramatically.
“My body stopped working,” she said. “I couldn’t move my body, so I threw myself out of the car.”
Doctors rushed her for a CT scan, but she struggled to breathe and could not stop vomiting during the examination. A neurologist noticed that she could only move two toes.
Ms. Goes was diagnosed with botulism, which affects just over 100 Americans every year. The disease is caused by a toxin released by the bacterium C. botulinum, which is normally found in mostly harmless spores in soil, marine areas and on the surface of foods such as fruits, vegetables and seafood.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the toxin this bacteria produces is most commonly found in foods that are improperly canned at home, such as tomatoes and pickles.
In Mrs. Goes’ case, the pesto was red, so it could have been made from tomatoes or peppers. It is possible that the bacteria was in the ingredients used to make the pesto.
Botulism affects the nervous system, with symptoms beginning within 12 hours of the toxin entering the body. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, double vision, drooping eyelids, blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty breathing, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If left untreated, it can lead to paralysis and even death.
The doctors think that the pesto was the most likely cause in Mrs. Goes’ case.
She was given an anti-botulinum medication, which allowed her to move her fingers and speak in small sentences. She also underwent physical therapy to strengthen her muscles.
Mrs. Goes stayed in the hospital for about a year to recover from the paralysis. “I’ve had treatments every day of the week,” she said, “from myofascial release to analgesia, laser, suction cup(s), pilates to restore muscle tone, strengthening and lung physiotherapy.”
She can now breathe without assistance, feed herself and walk with a walker. She is now more careful when purchasing food at restaurants, stores and fairs.
“It’s part of my history now and I have to overcome the difficulties I face now,” she said.