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, 66 (9), 1400-1406

Description of a Mass Poisoning in a Rural District in Mozambique: The First Documented Bongkrekic Acid Poisoning in Africa

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Description of a Mass Poisoning in a Rural District in Mozambique: The First Documented Bongkrekic Acid Poisoning in Africa

Eduardo Samo Gudo et al. Clin Infect Dis.

Abstract

Background: On 9 January 2015, in a rural town in Mozambique, >230 persons became sick and 75 died of an illness linked to drinking pombe, a traditional alcoholic beverage.

Methods: An investigation was conducted to identify case patients and determine the cause of the outbreak. A case patient was defined as any resident of Chitima who developed any new or unexplained neurologic, gastrointestinal, or cardiovascular symptom from 9 January at 6:00 am through 12 January at 11:59 pm. We conducted medical record reviews, healthcare worker and community surveys, anthropologic and toxicologic investigations of local medicinal plants and commercial pesticides, and laboratory testing of the suspect and control pombe.

Results: We identified 234 case patients; 75 (32%) died and 159 recovered. Overall, 61% of case patients were female (n = 142), and ages ranged from 1 to 87 years (median, 30 years). Signs and symptoms included abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and generalized malaise. Death was preceded by psychomotor agitation and abnormal posturing. The median interval from pombe consumption to symptom onset was 16 hours. Toxic levels of bongkrekic acid (BA) were detected in the suspect pombe but not the control pombe. Burkholderia gladioli pathovar cocovenenans, the bacteria that produces BA, was detected in the flour used to make the pombe.

Conclusions: We report for the first time an outbreak of a highly lethal illness linked to BA, a deadly food-borne toxin in Africa. Given that no previous outbreaks have been recognized outside Asia, our investigation suggests that BA might be an unrecognized cause of toxic outbreaks globally.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Location of outbreak, Cahora Bassa District, Tete Province, Mozambique
Figure 2
Figure 2. Time of illness onset among case-patients by outcome, January 9–12, 2015
Time of illness onset information was available for 135/159 (85%) survivors and 33/76 (43%) deaths.

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