Volume 72

Ciguatera Poisoning in Antigua and Barbuda: Working Towards a Risk Management Strategy

Maskrey, B; T. Lovell; I. Horsford; A. Robertson; A.D. Turner
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Date: November, 2019

Pages: 233-235

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy-Two Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Punta Cana

Country: Dominican Republic


Ciguatera Poisoning (CP) is a foodborne illness caused by consumption of fish contaminated with ciguatoxins and has been estimated to affect up to 500,000 people annually worldwide. Ciguatoxins are produced by tropical marine microalgae of the genus Gambierdiscus spp. which once ingested by herbivorous reef fish can become bioaccumulated through the food web, and impact upon important fishery species. Globally, CP is distributed across all subtropical and tropical oceans and within the Caribbean, two common isomers known as C-CTX-1 and -2 are the most commonly reported, with many other related toxins identified but yet to be elucidated. Within the Caribbean CP is highly prevalent, having profound effects on fisheries with associated socio-economic burdens. It is known that CP occurrence can be highly localised in its prevalence, both geographically and within fish species and a more detailed understanding of CP distriution could potentially lead to a risk assessment type approach to fisheries management. Due to the extremely low concentrations of toxins required to cause illness, analysis of ciguatoxins in fish is highly challenging. Current approaches typically assess overall toxicity via a cytotoxicity assay, with molecular confirmation obtained by mass spectrometry. We are currently working with the Antiguan Fisheries Board to assess occurrence and levels of ciguatoxins within fish from Antigua and Barbuda. A number of fish species from sites believed to be high, medium and low risk will be assessed for the presence of CTX and toxicity levels. Pilot data has shown for the first time the molecular confirmation of Caribbean CTXs in Antiguan fish. This partnership demonstrates how the scientific community can collaborate with local fishers and resource managers to improve evidence-based CP management strategies.

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