Ciguatera poisoning


Ciguatera poisoning occurs after ingestion of toxins that are found in edible fish from the coral reefs and tropical seas. The toxins are actually produced by dinoflagellates that attach themselves to corals, algae and seaweed. Eating them the fish bioaccumulate the toxin, which concentrates through the food chain with predator fish at the top. The toxins that cause ciguatera are ciguatoxin, maitotoxin, scaritoxin and palytotoxin. Ciguatoxin is odorless, tasteless, resistant to high temperature and is not destroyed by cooking and baking fish.

Symptoms of ciguatera poisoning include gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea …) and neurological effects (headache, dizziness, hallucinations, numbness …). In severe cases, people in contact with cold objects actually feel burning. Deaths from ciguatera poisoning have been reported too. Neurological symptoms may last very long, even 20-25 years. Healthy men and women after sexual intercourse with a partner affected with ciguatera also get symptoms, suggesting that the toxin is transmitted during intercourse. The toxin is also excreted in breast milk.

The disease is most common in northern Australia and the Pacific, Central America and the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.


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