Clupeotoxin Poisoning

  • Medical Author: Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
  • Medical Editor: N Stuart Harris, MD, MFA
  • Medical Editor: Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
  • Medical Editor: James Kimo Takayesu, MD
Reviewed on 10/12/2021

Facts on Clupeotoxin Poisoning

Sea foods include fish and others
Clupeotoxin poisoning is a potentially fatal poisoning that occurs after eating fish contaminated with the toxin.

  • 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 include:

  • Symptoms of clupeotoxin poisoning begin 30-60 minutes after eating contaminated fish.
  • The poisoned person may experience
  • 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

  • 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 for Clupeotoxin

Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.


Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas. See Answer

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Reviewed on 10/12/2021
Medically reviewed by Joseph Palermo, DO; American Osteopathic Board Certified Internal Medicine


"Ichthyosarcotoxism: poisoning by edible fish"
JAccid Emerg Med 1997;14:246-251
Iain C Grant

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