Types Of Food Poisoning Caused By Dinoflagellates  

Fish is the root cause of Ciguatera food poisoning, a syndrome occurring in humans resulting from intoxication by consumption of infected fish. The word Ciguatera is of Spanish origin, coined to describe the poisoning resulting from ingesting a marine snail called ‘cigua’ by early Spanish settlers in the Caribbean. The active ingredients of the infection are known as Dinoflagellate toxins.

Dinoflagellates are small marine life forms found in all the oceans of the world which are among the smallest part of the food chain of fish. Dinoflagellates, more visible in and around coral reefs, produce toxins. Shellfish thrive on Dinoflagellates as a natural food, and when these are consumed, the toxins accumulate within them. The toxins move up the food chain when shell fish are consumed by larger fish.

Associated exclusively with fish consumption, Ciguatera Food Poisoning (CFP) is the most commonplace type of non-bacterial food poisoning in the world.

The symptoms of seafood poisoning manifest themselves in three ways depending on the toxin ingested. They could be neurological, allergic or gastrointestinal. Marine toxins are hard to detect being tasteless and odorless and are immune to heat. These toxins survive cooking or alternative food preparation processes. The risk of seafood poisoning is steadily on the increase with an increasing number and geographic spreading of toxins.

Gastrointestinal symptoms occur usually within 3 hours of consumption of infected fish. Apart from the normal signs associated with food poisoning, excessive sweating, head and muscle aches also occur. There are a host of other symptoms as well including nightmares and hallucinations. Deaths are relatively infrequent.

Neurological symptoms which occur days later can remain for several months.

No antidote is known for Ciguatoxin.

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