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What is ciguatera poisoning?
Ciguatera is a type of food poisoning.
The ciguatera toxin may be found in large reef fish, most commonly barracuda,
grouper, red snapper, eel, amberjack, sea bass, and Spanish mackerel. These fish
live in coral reef waters between latitudes of 35 degrees south to 35 degrees
north, corresponding to the area located between the Tropic of Cancer and the
Tropic of Capricorn. These geographic lines ring the earth north and south of
the equator and make up the tropics. These areas include the Caribbean Sea,
Hawaii, and coastal Central America.
Ciguatera toxin tends to accumulate in
predator fish, such as the barracuda and other carnivorous reef fish, because
they eat other fish that consume toxin-producing algae (dinoflagellates) that
live in coral reef waters.
Ciguatera toxin is harmless to fish but poisonous
to humans. The toxin is odorless and tasteless, and it is heat-resistant, so
cooking does not destroy the toxin. Eating ciguatera-contaminated tropical or
subtropical fish poisons the person who eats it.