Scombroid poisoning : case series of 10 incidents involving 22 patients

Muller, G. J. ; Lamprecht, J. H. ; Barnes, J. M. ; De Villiers, R. V. P. ; Honeth, B. R. ; Hoffman, B. A. (1992)

CITATION: Muller, G. J. et al. 1992. Scombroid poisoning : case series of 10 incidents involving 22 patients. South African Medical Journal, 81:427-430.

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Scombroid poisoning is a form of ichthyosarcotoxism caused by the consumption of 'spoiled' fish of the dark meat varieties. It can be considered a mild-to-moderate form of 'food poisoning' and it occurs world-wide. Ten incidents, involving 22 patients, were reported to Tygerberg Hospital Pharmacology and Toxicology Consultation Centre in the first quarter of 1990. Cape yellowtail (Seriola lalandii) was involved in all the cases. The presenting symptoms and signs (in order of frequency) were: skin rash, diarrhoea, palpitations, headache, nausea and abdominal cramps, paraesthesia, an unusual taste sensation and breathing difficulties. The patients responded well to antihistamines and, in most, the condition resolved within 12-24 hours. Although histamine plays an important role in the pathogenesis of scombroid poisoning, the exact mechanism is still unresolved. The condition should be recognised and not confused with a true seafood allergy. Health workers are urged to alert the authorities when outbreaks of suspected cases of scombroid poisoning are encountered in order to establish the possible cause and to prevent further cases.

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