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Clupeotoxin Poisoning

Clupeotoxin Poisoning Overview

Clupeotoxin poisoning occurs in humans who eat fish contaminated with the toxin. This toxin (poison) occurs in plankton-eating fish, such as herring, anchovies, bonefish, slickheads, tarpons, and sardines. These fish are found in African, Caribbean, and Indo-Pacific coastal waters. Clupeotoxin is more commonly found in fish caught in the summer. The toxin is concentrated in fish organs and is tasteless and odorless. The identity of the toxin is unknown. Toxicity does not depend on fish freshness or size. The poison does not break down when the fish is cooked.

Clupeotoxin Poisoning Symptoms

  • Symptoms of clupeotoxin poisoning begin 30-60 minutes after eating contaminated fish.
  • The poisoned person may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dry mouth, a metallic taste, headache, sweats, chills, dizziness, and elevated heart and respiratory rate.
  • The lips, fingers, nose, and toes may become blue tinged.
  • The poisoned person may become very lightheaded, and the person’s blood pressure may drop.
  • Death occurs in about 50% of people poisoned by clupeotoxin.

Clupeotoxin Poisoning Treatment

Patient Comments
  • Vomiting should be induced if the poisoned person is awake and alert and has eaten the fish within the last 3 hours.
  • Maintain hydration. Intravenous fluids may be necessary for uncontrollable nausea and vomiting.
  • No specific antidote is available.

When to Seek Medical Care

Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

For More Information

MedlinePlus, Poisoning

American Association of Poison Control Centers

Poison Prevention.Org

Medically reviewed by Robert J. Bryg, MD; Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Cardiovascular Disease


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/2/2014
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