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Shellfish Poisoning from Food Choices
Shellfish poisoning is caused by toxins produced by planktonic algae, most often dinoflagellates. The toxins accumulated in shellfish. According to the US FDA:
“The 20 toxins responsible for paralytic shellfish poisonings (PSP) are all derivatives of saxitoxin. Diarrheic shellfish poisoning (DSP) is caused by a group of high molecular weight polyethers, including okadaic acid, the dinophysis toxins, the pectenotoxins, and yessotoxin. Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP) is the result of exposure to a group of polyethers called brevetoxins. Amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) is caused by the unusual amino acid, domoic acid, as the contaminant of shellfish. Ingestion of contaminated shellfish results in a variety of symptoms, depending upon the toxins(s) present, their concentrations in the shellfish and the amount of contaminated shellfish consumed. In the case of PSP, the effects are predominantly neurological and include tingling, burning, numbness, drowsiness, incoherent speech, and respiratory paralysis. Less well characterized are the symptoms associated with DSP, NSP, and ASP. DSP is primarily observed as a generally mild gastrointestinal disorder, i.e., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain accompanied by chills, headache, and fever. Both gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms characterize NSP, including tingling and numbness of lips, tongue, and throat, muscular aches, dizziness, reversal of the sensations of hot and cold, diarrhea, and vomiting. ASP is characterized by gastrointestinal disorders (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain) and neurological problems (confusion, memory loss, disorientation, seizure, coma).All shellfish are potentially toxic. However, PSP is generally associated with mussels, clams, cockles, and scallops; NSP with shellfish harvested along the Florida coast and the Gulf of Mexico; DSP with mussels, oysters, and scallops, and ASP with mussels. All humans are susceptible to shellfish poisoning. Elderly people are predisposed to the brainl effects of the ASP toxin. A disproportionate number of PSP cases occur among tourists or others who are not native to the location where the toxic shellfish are harvested. This may be due to disregard for either official quarantines or traditions of safe consumption, both of which tend to protect the local population.”
Atlantic Mussels and Memory Loss
Another food-toxin model of brain disease was suggested by permanent memory loss suffered by people who ingested Atlantic mussels in the summer of 1987. The toxin, demoic acid, appeared to be a product of specific phytoplankton (diatoms) eaten by the mussels during an unusual bloom of these creatures. Initial symptoms were nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea. Brain involvement began within a few days as headaches, dizziness, disorientation, and memory loss. Another small outbreak of poisoning was reported on the west coast in November 1991. Razor clams harvested in southwest Washington were responsible. Demoic poisoning of anchovie-eating pelicans was also recognized in California in 1991. Demoic acid is similar to kainic acid, a metabolite which occurs naturally in the brain and seems to damage cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain essential for memory function. Another shellfish poison, saxitoxin, originates in dinoflagellates. These creatures bloom as a "red tide" and cause a paralytic form of food poisoning. Another dinoflagellate causes in fish-eating people with numbness and tingling sensations along with nausea, vomiting, chills, and headache. Ciguaterra is most common in tropic fish, especially those that frequent coral reefs. Groupers, jacks, snappers, and barracuda are known to carry the toxin. Long-lasting neurological deficits include a curious temperature-reversal; hot feels cold and visa versa.
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