After hooking toxin behind seafood poisoning, Science researchers may tackle prevention

This release is also available in Japanese. The Japanese translation requires Adobe Acrobat Reader with Asian font pack.

The chemical culprit that triggers 20,000 annual cases of seafood poisoning has evaded scientific scrutiny for years because very little of it can be extracted from nature. Now, a team of Japanese researchers has invented a way to make this complex toxin in a laboratory for the first time. The study will be published in the 30 November issue of the journal, Science.

Synthetically producing the toxin responsible for seafood poisoning may fuel future development of more efficient methods to detect infected fish before they hit the dinner plate.

Most cases of ciguatera, or seafood poisoning, occur in subtropical and tropical regions, where fish are most commonly infected. Because reef fish are increasingly exported to other areas, and ciguateric fish look, taste, and smell normal, ciguatera may become a world-wide health problem, says Science researcher Masahiro Hirama and colleagues at Tohoku University and CREST, Japan Science and Technology Corporation in Sendai, Japan.

Currently, there are no rapid and reliable methods of detecting ciguatoxins at fisheries, Hirama says. Heating, freezing, or drying does not destroy the toxin, either.

The Hirama teams work will allow scientists to better understand details of how the chemical, ciguatoxin, inflicts damage on humans and to prepare toxin-fighting antibodies to deploy for detection.

Over 400 species of fish are known to transport ciguatera neurotoxins into the human food chain, causing gastrointestinal, neurological, and cardiovascular problems that can last from months to years, sometimes resulting in death, according to the study.

The Science research overcomes the previ

Contact: Lisa Onaga
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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