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Calif. Gov. to Keep Anti-Botulism Funding

March 27, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Gov. Gray Davis reversed course Wednesday, saying he will restore funding to a program that produces the only safe botulism treatment for infants and is considered key in combatting bioterrorism.

The program is developing a botulism antidote scientists say is the best available and the only safe treatment for infants, who represent 75 percent of all botulism cases annually.

Davis, struggling to surmount a nearly $35 billion budget deficit, had proposed cutting the $1.5 million program.

He changed his mind one day after federal officials said the botulinum toxin is a potential bioweapon and they were considering taking over the California program if the state cut funding.

The toxin is the most poisonous found naturally on Earth. Experts fear thousands would be sickened if terrorists found a way to get it into the nation’s food supply.

About 120 Americans get botulism each year. Roughly three-quarters are infants, who can get it from the trace amounts of the toxin found in honey.

The only safe treatment available for infants is the experimental antidote developed by Dr. Stephen Arnon and his colleagues at the California Department of Health Services.

California has applied to the Food and Drug Administration for approval of the antidote, but the agency has requested more data. Still, many doctors deem it safer to use than the approved antitoxin, which is made from the blood of vaccinated horses.

Davis spokeswoman Hillary McLean said the governor has not yet determined the level of funding he will propose for the program for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.


On the Net:

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/health/botulism.htm

California health department: http://www.dhs.cahwnet.gov

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