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Changgeng Yi Xue Za Zhi. 1999 Sep;22(3):468-73.

Acute fish liver intoxication: report of three cases.

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Department of Dermatology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Kaohisung, Taiwan, R.O.C.


The livers of some larger fish such as shark, tuna and seabass have been reported to be responsible for a peculiar poisoning causing headaches and desquamation. This type of poisoning can also be induced by ingestion of the livers of the sea whale, the polar bear and the seal. Since these animals contain an extremely large quantity of vitamin A in their livers and the symptoms of poisoning in the patients resembled those of patients with acute hypervitaminosis A, the poisoning was believed to have been caused by excessive vitamin A intake. We observed an episode of acute fish liver intoxication in which 3 man experienced dizziness, headache, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, fever, and desquamation after ingesting the liver of the grouper fish Cephalopholis boenak (C. boenak). One of the patients had full-blown symptoms and presented with a high fever, headache, dizziness, generalized aching pain, and superficial vesicles and bullae of the skin. The treatment was mainly supportive. In the follow-up period, he subsequently developed hair loss and diffuse peeling of the skin on his palms and soles. Acute fish liver intoxication is rare, especially in subtropical regions. Symptomatologically, the clinical pictures of these patients were comparable to acute hypervitaminosis A or retinoid intoxication. The average vitamin A content in the grouper (C. boenak) is high enough to cause acute vitamin A intoxication. Moreover, ethanol may play a potentiating role in this type of event.

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