Married couple left paralyzed after eating canned green beans [Representational Image]Creative Commons

A married couple from Germany were left paralyzed after they had canned green beans. They spent five months in the intensive care unit after they caught botulism - a rare and potentially fatal illness that's caused by a toxin produced by bacterium Clostridium botulinum.

Canned green beans, kidney beans, corn, herbs, asparagus, and olives are a few examples which are commonly linked to botulism.

The couple's son escaped the horrific ordeal as he refused to eat the beans because of 'odd odor'.

The 47-year-old woman suffered from double vision, dizziness, drooping eyelids and speech trouble when she went to the hospital. Her 51-year-old husband was admitted a day later after he suffered from similar symptoms, Daily Mail reported.

CT and MRI scans didn't find anything but in the meantime, the woman's neurological symptoms worsened and she was no longer able to even open her eyes. She was paralyzed from the neck down. After her lungs began to fail, doctors at Universitätsklinikum Halle put her on a life-support machine.

Her husband was comparatively in a better condition and was able to walk normally because he had consumed a 'smaller amount' of the canned green beans.

How does it enter the body?

Apart from canned foods that have been improperly preserved, it can also enter through wounds and cause wound botulism. It can happen from the contamination of a wound with the bacteria and then secrete the toxin into the bloodstream. Botulism can also occur after using inappropriate strengths of Botox -- used to reduce wrinkles on an aging face. Infant botulism is one of the most common forms in Western countries, occurring in kids colonized with the bacterium in their small intestine during the early stages of their lives.

Only after their son revealed that his parents had eaten home-canned beans two days before, botulism was suspected. Blood tests revealed the presence of botulinum toxin in the woman. For the man, tests were inconclusive.

The doctors did not provide antitoxin to the couple because more than 72 hours had passed since they had the 'probably poisoned beans' and the health guidelines of Germany states that patients battling botulism should only be given antitoxin in the first 24 hours after ingesting the toxin.

The man developed quadriparesis (muscle weakness in all four limbs) within three days and was placed on mechanical ventilation. Whereas his wife was dependent on the life-saving mechanical ventilation for more than five months and was discharged by the doctors after 11 months.

Her husband started breathing on his own a month sooner and was discharged after just eight months.Though the symptoms disappeared completely, the woman remained weak and suffered from poor mental health.

Doctors made the case public to raise awareness of the rare toxin. It was reported in the Journal of Medical Case Reports.