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Scombroid Poisoning

Scombroid Poisoning Overview

Scombroid poisoning is a disease due to the ingestion of contaminated food (mainly fish). In scombroid poisoning, bacteria have grown during improper storage of the dark meat of the fish and the bacteria produce scombroid toxin. Scombroid toxin, or poison, is probably a combination of histamine and histamine-like chemicals. The toxin or poison does not affect everyone who ingests it.

No test is 100% reliable for assessing fish for this toxin or poison. Cooking kills the bacteria, but toxins remain in the tissues and can be absorbed after the food is ingested.

Susceptible fish include albacore, amberjack, anchovy, Australian salmon, bluefish, bonito, kahawai, herring, mackerel, mahi-mahi, needlefish, saury, sardine, skipjack, wahoo, and yellowfin tuna. Other fish and foods probably will be added to the list if testing systems for the poison improve. Affected fish may have a metallic or peppery taste.

Scombroid Poisoning Symptoms

Symptoms of scombroid poisoning generally begin quickly, about 30 minutes to 1 hour after ingestion of the poison and include:

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • flushing,
  • abdominal cramps,
  • diarrhea, and
  • headache.

Other symptoms may include:

  • itching,
  • hives,
  • a burning sensation in the mouth,
  • fever
  • or an unusual heart pounding sensation.

Severe reactions include dropping blood pressure, racing heart, and wheezing.

Symptoms usually last about three hours, but some people experience discomfort for a few days.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/27/2013

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Toxicity, Scombroid »

Scombroid fish poisoning (scombrotoxism, scombroid ichthyotoxicosis) is a food-related illness typically associated with the consumption of fish.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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