Since 2008, autochthonous ciguatera food poisoning (CFP) outbreaks have been reported in Spain (Canary Islands) and in Portugal (Madeira). 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. The outbreak in Madeira occurred in 2008. In the Canary Islands the fish genus Seriola was involved in many of the outbreaks. In 2004, Gambierdiscus spp., responsible for ciguatera in the waters of the Canary Islands and Madeira microalgae, was also detected.
These new findings suggest the microorganism is becoming more widespread in the Mediterranean.
Ciguatoxin is found in fish that feed on a microorganism that produces the toxic substance. Consumers eating affected fish can suffer from a range of symptoms including gastrointestinal and neurological effects. The toxin is produced by micro algae, or dinoflagellates, called Gambierdiscus spp. Small fish eat the algae, and they are then in turn eaten by larger reef-dwelling fish. The toxins climb up the food chain until the contaminated fish are caught and served to people. There is no cure for this toxin, although treatments are available. Some people are affected with health problems for years after ciguatera poisoning.
Worldwide distribution of ciguatera.
Red dots: ciguatera cases of poisoning. Yellow dots: presence of Gambierdiscus spp.