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July 18, 1980

It's Always the Big Ones That Should Get Away

Author Affiliations

University of South Florida College of Medicine Tampa

JAMA. 1980;244(3):272-273. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310030048030

Ciguatera fish poisoning is one of the most common of the fish-related intoxications.1 In general, fish poisons derive from three sources. One source has natural, endogenous toxicity such as that found in puffer fish, a delicacy of Japan. Another toxin comes from products of early decomposition of fish tissue, such as that induced by Morganella morganii (substances known as saurine), causing scombroid intoxication. Finally there are those toxins stored within fish tissues, such as ciguatera toxin and the agent of shellfish poisoning.2 Others have classified toxins by their anatomic site, such as the following: ichthyosarcotoxins in muscle, skin, and viscera; ichthyoototoxins in gonads; and ichthyohemotoxins in blood.3

The first reference to ciguatera appears to be that by Peter Martyr in 1555. The name of the disease derives from the Spanish for a disease brought on by ingesting a poisonous snail called the cigua. The toxin of ciguatera