November 9, 2011
Fast New Test For Terrible Form Of Food Poisoning
Scientists are reporting development of a fast, reliable new test that could help people avoid a terrible type of food poisoning that comes from eating fish tainted with a difficult-to-detect toxin from marine algae growing in warm waters. The report appears in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry.
Takeshi Yasumoto and colleagues explain that 20,000-60,000 people every year come down with ciguatera poisoning from eating fish tainted with a ciguatoxin -- the most common source of food poisoning from a natural toxin. Fish, such as red snapper and sea bass, get the toxin by eating smaller fish that feast on marine algae that produce the toxin in tropical and subtropical areas, such as the Gulf Coast of the U.S. There's no warning that a fish has the toxin -- it smells, looks and tastes fine. But within hours of ingesting the toxin, people with ciguatera have symptoms that often include vomiting, diarrhea, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs and muscle and joint aches. Debilitating symptoms may last for months. The current test for the toxin involved giving it to laboratory mice and watching them for symptoms. It is time-consuming, may miss the small amounts present in fish, and can't tell the difference between certain forms of the disease. That's why Yasumoto's group developed a faster, more sensitive test.
The authors acknowledge funding from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.
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