John W. Austin

Image John
Research Scientist

As a Research Scientist, Dr. Austin is responsible for the Botulism Reference Service of Canada as well as research on botulinum toxin producing strains of Clostridium.

Current research and/or projects

Botulism Reference Service for Canada

Inactivation of spores of Clostridium botulinum by ultraviolet light.

Development of a method to detect staphylococcal enterotoxins A through E using mass spectroscopy.

Research and/or project statements

The management of a suspected botulism case involves healthcare professionals, and provincial and federal public health officials. The federal management involves Health Canada's Botulism Reference Service (BRS) for Canada and may involve the Health Canada Special Access Programme (SAP).

The BRS for Canada, established in 1974, provides the following support:

  • Assists physicians and Provincial Departments of Health when botulism is suspected;
  • Examines suspect foods and clinical specimens submitted by hospital and provincial laboratories for analysis;
  • Rapidly alerts responsible agencies when commercial foods are involved;
  • Maintains reference cultures of C. botulinum; and
  • Liaises with centres that have similar interests and responsibilities in Canada and abroad.

Education and awards

B.Sc., Biology, University of Windsor

Windsor, Ontario, October 1981

M.Sc., Biology, University of Windsor

Windsor, Ontario, June 1984

Ph.D., Microbiology and Immunology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, October 1989

April 1992 to September 1992   


Canadian Bacterial Disease Network (CBDN)

NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship

Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology

University of Victoria

Victoria, B.C.


Charles L. Hatheway Memorial Lecturer

Interagency Botulism Research Coordinating Committee

October 28, 2014

Philadelphia, PA.



United States Patent 9,551,654.  Ismail et al. Patent Method for the spectral identification of microorganisms

Canadian patent Patent 2572342. Ismail et al. Patent Method for the spectral identification of microorganisms

International experience and/or work

Summer 1987  



Biozentrum, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

November 2018

PhD Thesis Defense Opponent

University of Helsinki, Finland

Key publications

Shao, Y., Ramaswamy, H.S., Bussey, J., Harris, R., Austin, J.W. High pressure destruction kinetics of Clostridium botulinum (Group I, strain PA9508B) spores in milk at elevated temperatures (2022) LWT-Food Science and Technology, 154, art. no. 112671, .

Harris, R.A., Anniballi, F., Austin, J.W. Adult intestinal toxemia botulism. (2020) Toxins, 12 (2), art. no. 81.

Arora, J., Oudit, D., Austin, J.W., Ramaswamy, H.S. Evaluation of thermal destruction kinetics of Clostridium difficile spores (ATCC 17857) in lean ground beef with first-order/Weibull modeling considerations (2019) Journal of Food Process Engineering, 42 (7), art. no. e13273.

Peck, M.W., Smith, T.J., Anniballi, F., Austin, J.W., Bano, L., Bradshaw, M., Cuervo, P., Cheng, L.W., Derman, Y., Dorner, B.G., Fisher, A., Hill, K.K., Kalb, S.R., Korkeala, H., Lindström, M., Lista, F., Lúquez, C., Mazuet, C., Pirazzini, M., Popoff, M.R., Rossetto, O., Rummel, A., Sesardic, D., Singh, B.R., Stringer, S.C. Historical perspectives and guidelines for botulinum neurotoxin subtype nomenclature (2017) Toxins, 9 (1), art. no. 38.

Leclair, D., Farber, J.M., Pagotto, F., Suppa, S., Doidge, B., Austin, J.W. Tracking sources of Clostridium botulinum type E contamination in seal meat (2017) International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 76 (1), art. no. 1380994.

Carter, A.T., Austin, J.W., Weedmark, K.A., Peck, M.W. Evolution of chromosomal Clostridium botulinum type E neurotoxin gene clusters: Evidence provided by their rare plasmid-borne counterparts (2016) Genome Biology and Evolution, 8 (3), pp. 540-555.

Weedmark, K.A., Mabon, P., Hayden, K.L., Lambert, D., Van Domselaar, G., Austin, J.W., Corbett, C.R. Clostridium botulinum group II isolate phylogenomic profiling using whole-genome sequence data (2015) Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 81 (17), pp. 5938-5948.

Walton, R.N., Clemens, A., Chung, J., Moore, S., Wharton, D., Haydu, L., De Villa, E., Sanders, G., Bussey, J., Richardson, D., Austin, J.W. Outbreak of type E foodborne botulism linked to traditionally prepared salted fish in Ontario, Canada. (2014) Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, 11 (10), pp. 830-834.

Carter, A.T., Austin, J.W., Weedmark, K.A., Corbett, C., Peck, M.W. Three classes of plasmid (47-63 kb) carry the type b neurotoxin gene cluster of Group II Clostridium botulinum. (2014) Genome Biology and Evolution, 6 (8), pp. 2076-2087.

Weedmark, K.A., Lambert, D.L., Mabon, P., Hayden, K.L., Urfano, C.J., Leclair, D., van Domselaar, G., Austin, J.W., Corbett, C.R. Two novel toxin variants revealed by whole-genome sequencing of 175 Clostridium botulinum type E strains (2014) Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 80 (20), pp. 6334-6345.

Ramaswamy, H.S., Shao, Y., Bussey, J., Austin, J. Screening of twelve Clostridium botulinum (group I) spores for high-pressure resistance at elevated-temperatures (2013) Food and Bioproducts Processing, 91 (4), pp. 403-412.

Woudstra, C., Lambert, D., Anniballi, F., De Medici, D., Austin, J., Fach, P. Genetic diversity of the flagellin genes of Clostridium botulinum groups I and II (2013) Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 79 (13), pp. 3926-3932.

Leclair, D., Fung, J., Isaac-Renton, J.L., Proulx, J.F., May-Hadford, J., Ellis, A., Ashton, E., Bekal, S., Farber, J.M., Blanchfield, B., Austin, J.W. Foodborne botulism in Canada, 1985-2005. (2013) Emerging infectious diseases, 19 (6), pp. 961-968.

Leclair, D., Farber, J.M., Doidge, B., Blanchfield, B., Suppa, S., Pagotto, F., Austin, J.W. Distribution of Clostridium botulinum type E strains in Nunavik, Northern Quebec, Canada (2013) Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 79 (2), pp. 646-654.

Schwartz, K.L., Austin, J.W., Science, M. Constipation and poor feeding in an infant with botulism. (2012) CMAJ, 184 (17), pp. 1919-1922.

Sheppard, Y.D., Middleton, D., Eld, Y.W., Tyndel, F., Haider, S., Spiegelman, J., Swartz, R.H., Nelder, M.P., Baker, S.L., Landry, L., Maceachern, R., Deamond, S., Ross, L., Peters, G., Baird, M., Rose, D., Sanders, G., Austin, J.W. Intestinal toxemia botulism in 3 adults, Ontario, Canada, 2006-2008 (2012) Emerging Infectious Diseases, 18 (1), pp. 1-6.

Austin, J.W., Leclair, D. Botulism in the north: A disease without borders. (2011) Clinical Infectious Diseases, 52 (5), pp. 593-594.

Carter, A.T., Paul, C.J., Mason, D.R., Twine, S.M., Alston, M.J., Logan, S.M., Austin, J.W., Peck, M.W. Independent evolution of neurotoxin and flagellar genetic loci in proteolytic Clostridium botulinum (2009) BMC Genomics, 10, art. no. 115, .

Sheth, A.N., Wiersma, P., Atrubin, D., Dubey, V., Zink, D., Skinner, G., Doerr, F., Juliao, P., Gonzalez, G., Burnett, C., Drenzek, C., Shuler, C., Austin, J., Ellis, A., Maslanka, S., Sobel, J. International outbreak of severe botulism with prolonged toxemia caused by commercial carrot juice (2008) Clinical Infectious Diseases, 47 (10), pp. 1245-1251.

Paul, C.J., Twine, S.M., Tam, K.J., Mullen, J.A., Kelly, J.F., Austin, J.W., Logan, S.M. Flagellin diversity in Clostridium botulinum groups I and II: A new strategy for strain identification (2007) Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 73 (9), pp. 2963-2975.

Paul, C.J., Tran, S., Tam, K.J., Austin, J.W. A unique restriction site in the flaA gene allows rapid differentiation of group I and group II Clostridium botulinum strains by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis (2007) Journal of Food Protection, 70 (9), pp. 2133-2139.

Leclair, D., Pagotto, F., Farber, J.M., Cadieux, B., Austin, J.W. Comparison of DNA fingerprinting methods for use in investigation of type E botulism outbreaks in the Canadian Arctic (2006) Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 44 (5), pp. 1635-1644.

Yule, A.M., Barker, I.K., Austin, J.W., Moccia, R.D. Toxicity of Clostridium botulinum type E neurotoxin to Great Lakes fish: Implications for avain botulism (2006) Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 42 (3), pp. 479-493.

Yule, A.M., LePage, V., Austin, J.W., Barker, I.K., Moccia, R.D. Repeated low-level exposure of the round goby (Neogobius melanostomas) to Clostridium botulinum type E neurotoxin (2006) Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 42 (3), pp. 494-500.

Yule, A.M., Austin, J.W., Barker, I.K., Cadieux, B., Moccia, R.D. Persistence of Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin type E in tissues from selected freshwater fish species: Implications to public health
(2006) Journal of Food Protection, 69 (5), pp. 1164-1167.

Research facility

251 Sir Frederick Banting Driveway
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9


April 1997 to March 1998

ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, Department of Food Science, University of Guelph

December 2001 to 2020

ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, Department of Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry, McGill University

September 2002 to 2006

ASSOCIATE GRADUATE FACULTY, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph