Medical Definition of Palytoxin

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Palytoxin: a highly potent toxin (poison) that affects humans when ingested, inhaled, or through skin contact. Palytoxin can cause damage to a number of organ systems and can be fatal. Most commonly, exposure to palytoxin causes severe respiratory problems. Palytoxin is found in a marine species related to corals, and human cases of poisoning have been reported after eating seafood and after cleaning salt-water aquarium tanks. For example, removal of rocks from marine aquariums as part of the cleaning process has been rarely documented to release palytoxin particles into the air, leading to poisonings from inhalation.

Data from the U.S. National Poison Data System show that at least 171 reports of inhaling or coming into skin contact with palytoxin were made to poison control centers between 2000 and 2014.

Reviewed on 4/9/2018


Murphy, LT, et al. Prevalence and characteristics of inhalational and dermal palytoxin exposures reported to the National Poison Data System in the U.S. Environ. Toxicol. Pharmacol.2017 Oct;55:107-109. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2017.08.010. Epub 2017 Aug 18.

Thakur, LK, et al. Palytoxin-induced acute respiratory failure. Respir Med Case Rep. 2017; 20: 4–6. Published online 2016 Oct 21. doi: 10.1016/j.rmcr.2016.10.014

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors