Epidemiology and Toxicology of Ciguatera Poisoning in the Colombian Caribbean

Mar Drugs. 2020 Oct 1;18(10):504. doi: 10.3390/md18100504.


Ciguatera is a food intoxication caused by the consumption of primarily coral fish; these species exist in large numbers in the seas that surround the Colombian territory. The underreported diagnosis of this clinical entity has been widely highlighted due to multiple factors, such as, among others, ignorance by the primary care practitioner consulted for this condition as well as clinical similarity to secondary gastroenteric symptoms and common food poisonings of bacterial, parasitic or viral etiology. Eventually, it was found that people affected by ciguatoxins had trips to coastal areas hours before the onset of symptoms. Thanks to multiple studies over the years, it has been possible to identify the relation between toxigenic dinoflagellates and seagrasses, as well as its incorporation into the food chain, starting by fish primarily inhabiting reef ecosystems and culminating in the intake of these by humans. Identifying the epidemiological link, its cardinal symptoms and affected systems, such as gastrointestinal, the peripheral nervous system and, fortunately with a low frequency, the cardiovascular system, leads to a purely clinical diagnostic impression without necessitating further complementary studies; in addition, what would also help fight ciguatera poisoning is performing an adequate treatment of the symptoms right from the start, without underestimating or overlooking any associated complications.

Keywords: ciguatoxins; dinoflagellates; intoxication; mannitol.

Publication types

  • Review