Ciguatera Food Poisoning
AN EMERGING RISK IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
Ciguatera food poisoning (CFP) is a type of food poisoning associated with the consumption of seafood with an estimate number of 20,000–500,000 poisonings per year worldwide. Ciguatera is endemic in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Isolated outbreaks have occurred sporadically but with an increasing frequency in temperate areas such as Europe.
This seafood-borne illness is typically caused by the consumption of fish that have accumulated ciguatoxins in their flesh. Ciguatoxins are produced by benthic dinoflagellates from the genus Gambierdiscus spp. that represents a key aspect in studies of harmful algae in recent years due to the danger to human health.
Consumers eating affected fish can suffer from a range of symptoms including gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and neurological effects. There is no cure for this toxin, although treatments are available. Some people are affected with health problems for years after the intoxication. Besides, epidemiological studies indicate that less than 10 % of actual cases are ever reported. In general, under-diagnosis and under-reporting make it difficult to know the true worldwide incidence of the diseases related to marine toxins.
In Europe, autochthonous ciguatera food poisoning (CFP) outbreaks have been reported in Spain (Canary Islands) and in Portugal (Madeira). In Spain an outbreak occurred in 2004 associated with consumption of amberjack fish (Seriola spp.) captured in Canarian waters. The epidemiological Surveillance System for Ciguatera poisoning in the Canary Islands recorded 11 indigenous outbreaks of ciguatera food poisoning between 2008 and 2014, accounting for 96 cases. In the case of Madeira, an outbreak of ciguatera was reported in 2008, due to consumption of amberjack fish (Seriola spp.) caught in local waters. Furthermore, some studies have identified the presence of Gambierdiscus spp. in waters surrounding the Canary Islands, Madeira and in the Mediterranean, but there are still many gaps in knowledge regarding their prevalence as well as the type of toxin they produce, among others. These new findings suggest the ciguatera is becoming an increasing risk for European countries.