Ciguatera in Australia. Occurrence, clinical features, pathophysiology and management

Med J Aust. 1986 Dec;145(11-12):584-90.


Ciguatera is a type of food poisoning that results from eating certain tropical fish which have become toxic. It is common in Australia: 175 outbreaks, which involved 527 people, were reported in Queensland between 1965 and 1984. It seems restricted to certain areas around the Australian coastline. Most reports have involved the narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus commersoni, most of which were caught in southern Queensland waters. Up to 2100 cases may have occurred in north Queensland between 1965 and 1984, which were not recorded by the writers. The symptoms of ciguatera in Australia are similar to those reported elsewhere in the South Pacific. Ciguatoxin acts by increasing the permeability of excitable membranes to sodium ions. This type of membrane is found throughout the body in nerve tissue as well as in heart and skeletal muscle. The treatment of ciguatera remains symptomatic and supportive only. Major advances in treatment for ciguatera and detection of ciguatoxin await the means of producing additional ciguatoxin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Australia
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / drug effects
  • Ciguatera Poisoning*
  • Fishes*
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Marine Toxins / poisoning*
  • Sodium / metabolism


  • Ion Channels
  • Marine Toxins
  • Sodium