Worldwide distribution of Gambierdiscus

What is ciguatera?

Ciguatera is the most widespread phycotoxin food-borne disease, endemic in tropical and subtropical areas. It affects every year 25000-500000 people. Ciguatera is caused by eating fish with toxins  in their tissues (ciguatoxins produced by microalgae), and typical poisoning can occur at gastrointestinal, neurological and cardiovascular levels. Ciguatera has a low mortality rate but the health problems it causes can last for a long time, and can develop into a chronic illness. In tropical zones where the population is more dependent on fish consumption the incidence of ciguatera is significant and represents a serious problem for health authorities (regions of the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian, mainly).

Ciguatoxins are apparently harmless to fish and there is no sign that distinguishes a ciguatoxic individual from another uncontaminated. Ciguatoxins can accumulate in more than 425 different species belonging to 60 families. But also some invertebrates, like shellfish, can accumulate these toxins and transfer them to the food chain. Also, there have been recently they discovered atypical syndromes of ciguatera poisoning in the Pacific Islands, related to the toxins produced by several species of cyanobacteria.