Public Health

Ciguatera Fish Poisoning in Canada

Fourteen crew members of a Panamanian ship have been taken ill after suffering from food poisoning attributed to Ciguatera fish. For more, information here is the report: The Star.

This food poisoning is causes by Ciguatoxins, which are some of the most potent sodium channel openers known in nature. Ciguatoxins are formed in the body of fish that feed on dinoflagellates like Gambierdiscus toxicus. These dinoflagellates contain Gambiertoxins, which, after being fed on by carnivorous fishes, get converted into the highly lipid soluble ciguatoxins. There are a number of other toxins involved in the disease process which primarily presents with gastrointestinal symptoms. They include: maitotoxin, scaritoxin and palytoxin. The GI symptoms can make way for neurological symptoms when the patient deteriorates. One of the pathognomonic symptoms in the late stage is cold allodynia, that is a burning sensation in touching something cold.

These toxins are colorless, odorless, tasteless and very heat resistant, making it almost impossible to detect them or destroy them during conventional cooking. Three of the affected 14 crew members are supposedly admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. While there is no specific antidote to this toxin, supportive care and early diagnosis form the keystones of major recovery.

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