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Wilderness Environ Med. 1995 Aug;6(3):288-94.

Ciguatera poisoning after ingestion of imported jellyfish: diagnostic application of serum immunoassay.

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Emergency Medicine Residency Program, Stanford University/Kaiser Permanente, CA 94305, USA.


Ciguatera fish poisoning is an important public health problem wherever humans consume tropical and subtropical fish. It accounts for over half of fish-related poisonings in the United States but is uncommonly diagnosed and underreported. Produced by dinoflagellates, ciguatoxin accumulates up the food chain in herbivorous and carnivorous fishes. Cnidaria jellyfish and related invertebrates) have not previously been associated with direct ciguatera intoxication in humans. We report the first case of ciguatera fish poisoning associated with cnidarian ingestion. A 12-year-old Tongan female presented to our Emergency Department with mid-abdominal pain, nausea, change in mental status, and new-onset movement disorder after ingestion of jellyfish imported from American Samoa. Clinical diagnosis was confirmed by strongly positive serum identification of ciguatoxin and related polyether toxins (including okadaic acid) with a rapid extraction method (REM) and highly reliable solid-phase immunobead assay (S-PIA) performed by the Food Toxicology Research Group, University of Arizona. Ciguatera pathophysiology, clinical presentation, differential diagnosis (including consideration of palytoxin poisoning), and treatment are briefly reviewed. We emphasize the growing incidence of ciguatera fish poisoning outside "high-risk" areas. In regions with immigrant populations, privately imported exotic fish may be toxin vectors. Marine species other than carnivorous fish are now suspect in human ciguatera intoxication. Reliable tests can aid in premarket fish testing, diagnosis, and follow-up of ciguatera fish poisoning. The global prevalence of marine toxins demands fishermen, consumers, and physicians maintain a high index of suspicion for ciguatera fish poisoning.

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