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June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Fish poisoning ( Pufferfish Poisoning , Tetradon Poisoning , Fugu Poisoning ) by consumption of members of the order Tetraodontiformes is one of the most violent intoxication from marine species. The gonads, liver, intestines, and skin of pufferfish can contain levels of tetrodotoxin sufficient to produce rapid and violent death. The flesh of many pufferfish may not usually be dangerously toxic. Tetrodotoxin has also been isolated from widely differing animal species, including the California newt , parrotfish , frogs of the genus Atelopus , the blue-ringed octopus , starfish , angelfish , and xanthid crabs . The metabolic source of tetrodotoxin is uncertain. Reports of the production of tetrodotoxin/anhydrotetrodotoxin by several bacterial species, including strains of the family Vibrionaceae , Pseudomonas sp., and Photobacterium phosphoreum , point toward a bacterial origin of this family of toxins. These are relatively common marine bacteria that are often associated with marine animals. If confirmed, these findings may have some significance in toxicoses that have been more directly related to these bacterial species.

How is tetradon poisoning diagnosed?

The diagnosis of tetrodon poisoning is based on the observed symptomology and recent dietary history.

What foods have been associated with tetradon poisoning?

Poisonings from tetrodotoxin have been almost exclusively associated with the consumption of pufferfish from waters of the Indo-Pacific ocean regions. Several reported cases of poisonings, including fatalities, involved pufferfish from the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Gulf of California. There have been no confirmed cases of poisoning from the Atlantic pufferfish, Spheroides maculatus . However, in one study, extracts from fish of this species were highly toxic in mice. The trumpet shell Charonia sauliae has been implicated in food poisonings, and evidence suggests that it contains a tetrodotoxin derivative. There have been several reported poisonings from mislabeled pufferfish and at least one report of a fatal episode when an individual swallowed a California newt.

What are the symptoms and complications of tetradon poisoning?

The first symptom of intoxication is a slight numbness of the lips and tongue, appearing between 20 minutes to three hours after eating poisonous pufferfish. The next symptom is increasing paraesthesia in the face and extremities, which may be followed by sensations of lightness or floating. Headache, epigastric pain, nausea, diarrhea, and/or vomiting may occur. Occasionally, some reeling or difficulty in walking may occur. The second stage of the intoxication is increasing paralysis. Many victims are unable to move; even sitting may be difficult. There is increasing respiratory distress. Speech is affected, and the victim usually exhibits dyspnea, cyanosis, and hypotension. Paralysis increases and convulsions, mental impairment, and cardiac arrhythmia may occur. The victim, although completely paralyzed, may be conscious and in some cases completely lucid until shortly before death. Death usually occurs within 4 to 6 hours, with a known range of about 20 minutes to 8 hours.

Who is susceptible to tetradon poisoning?

All humans are susceptible to tetrodotoxin poisoning. This toxicosis may be avoided by not consuming pufferfish or other animal species containing tetrodotoxin. Most other animal species known to contain tetrodotoxin are not usually consumed by humans. Poisoning from tetrodotoxin is of major public health concern primarily in Japan, where "fugu" is a traditional delicacy. It is prepared and sold in special restaurants where trained and licensed individuals carefully remove the viscera to reduce the danger of poisoning. Importation of pufferfish into the United States is not generally permitted, although special exceptions may be granted. There is potential for misidentification and/or mislabeling, particularly of prepared, frozen fish products.


Food and Drug Administration

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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