Infectious Disease Compendium

Gambierdiscus toxicus (Ciguartera)


An algae.

Epidemiologic Risks

Eating fish that have been in algae blooms, S. pacific and Caribbean, about 35 degrees south to 35 degrees north,. The bigger the fish, the bigger the risk. Greater than 400 species of fish, especially amberjack, barracuda, red snapper, grouper.


Acute gastroenteritis, then paresthesias.


Supportive. Be caring. Listen. Feel the pain.


Ciguatoxin is odourless, tasteless, and cannot be destroyed by standard cooking. So how do you know if the toxin is there? You don't.

From the (Wikipedia): "In Northern Australia, where ciguatera is a common problem, two different folk science methods are widely believed to detect whether fish harbor significant ciguatoxin. The first method is that flies are supposed not to land on contaminated fish. The second is that cats will either refuse to eat or vomit/display symptoms after eating contaminated fish. A third, less common testing method involves putting a silver coin under the scales of the suspect fish. If the coin turns black, according to the theory, it is contaminated. On Grand Cayman and other islands the locals will test barracuda by placing a piece of the fish on the ground and allowing ants to crawl on it. If the ants do not avoid the flesh and will eat it, then the fish is deemed safe". They don't work (PubMed).

Last update: 05/05/18