Neurotoxic marine poisoning

Lancet Neurol. 2005 Apr;4(4):219-28. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(05)70041-7.


Marine poisoning results from the ingestion of marine animals that contain toxic substances and causes substantial illness in coastal regions. Three main clinical syndromes of marine poisoning have important neurological symptoms-ciguatera, tetrodotoxin poisoning, and paralytic shellfish poisoning. Ciguatera is the commonest syndrome of marine poisoning and is characterised by moderate to severe gastrointestinal effects (vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal cramps) and neurological effects (myalgia, paraesthesia, cold allodynia, and ataxia), but is rarely lethal. Tetrodotoxin poisoning and paralytic shellfish poisoning are less common but have a higher fatality rate than ciguatera. Mild gastrointestinal effects and a descending paralysis are characteristic of these types of poisoning. In severe poisoning, paralysis rapidly progresses to respiratory failure. Diagnosis of all types of marine poisoning is made from the circumstances of ingestion (type of fish and location) and the clinical effects. Because there are no antidotes, supportive care, including mechanical ventilation in patients with severe paralysis, is the mainstay of treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ciguatera Poisoning / diagnosis
  • Ciguatera Poisoning / physiopathology*
  • Fishes, Poisonous*
  • Humans
  • Marine Toxins / poisoning*
  • Nervous System / drug effects
  • Nervous System / pathology
  • Shellfish Poisoning*
  • Tetrodotoxin / poisoning*


  • Marine Toxins
  • Tetrodotoxin