Because botulism is caused by a toxin and not the effects of the bacteria, antibiotics are not usually prescribed. The treatment for botulism is the antitoxin that neutralizes the toxin in the body. The antitoxin must be given early in the course of the disease to be effective. The antitoxin is useless if given too late, for too many nerve cells already are affected by the toxin. A botulism patient also must receive intensive, supportive care, such as a respirator, to assist breathing. Sometimes dialysis, a process that artificially cleanses the blood, is used to assist the kidneys in removing the toxin from the bloodstream.