Ciguatera poisoning is a form of seafood poisoning that occurs in humans after the ingestion of particular specimens of a variety of tropical marine fish species. Ciguatera poisoning is caused by the ingestion of small quantities of a very powerful toxin, ciguatoxin (CTX), that occurs in the tissues of the offending fish.
The distribution of human ciguatera poisoning is confined mainly to the tropics where it is a considerable cause of morbidity. Over 50,000 people may be afflicted each year in the tropical regions of the world. It is the most frequently reported foodborne disease of a chemical nature within the USA with most cases emanating from tropical regions of southeastern Florida and Hawaii.
In the small Pacific Island nations where fish forms a considerable component of the diet, ciguatera poisoning can cause a significant public health problem. South Pacific Commission figures over the five year period 1977 to 1981 report incidences as low as 2.5/100,000 in French Polynesia. Estimates of the annual incidences of ciguatera poisoning in two Australian communities were 24/100,000 in Maryborough - Hervey Bay and 34/100,000 in Cairns.
Some of the objectives of this project were to examine the histopathological effects of CTX on non nervous tissues; to assess the effects of CTX on survival in fish; to assess the functional and structural damage to peripheral nerves in the victims of chronic CTX intoxication; and to examine the effects of CTX on excitable membranes in "carrier" and "non-carrier" species of fish.