Ciguatoxin: A seafood toxin that is acquired by eating fish that have consumed toxic single-celled marine organisms called dinoflagellates or fish that have consumed other fish that have become toxic. When someone eats these fish, they suffer seafood poisoning. Food poisoning from ciguatoxin is called ciguatera.
Ciguatera can cause gastrointestinal, neuromuscular symptoms and respiratory problems. The gastrointestinal problems include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The neuromuscular problems may include tingling around the lips, abnormal or impaired skin sensations, hot-to-cold reversal, vertigo, lack of muscle coordination, weakness and numbness, muscle pain, and itching. There may be respiratory paralysis. Ciguatera symptom strike shortly after eating tainted fish. Symptoms may recur up to 6 months. Death is uncommon, but is known.
Fish with ciguatoxin come from the southeastern United States, Bahamian, and Caribbean regions, Hawaii, and subtropical and tropical areas worldwide including the central Pacific and northern Australia. Barracuda, amberjack, horse-eye jack, black jack, other large species of jack, king mackerel, large groupers, and snappers are particularly likely to contain ciguatoxin. Many other species of large fish-eating fish may also contain ciguatoxin.
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Last Editorial Review: 6/9/2016