Scombroid food poisoning
Scombroid fish poisoning is a foodborne illness that results from eating spoiled (decayed) fish. It is most commonly reported with tuna, mahi-mahi, bonito, sardines, anchovies, and related species of fish that were inadequately refrigerated or preserved after being caught. Scombroid can result from inappropriate handling of fish during storage or processing. One of the toxic agents implicated in scombroid poisoning is a chemical called histamine. Other chemicals have been found in decaying fish flesh, but their association to scombroid fish poisoning has not been clearly established.
The suspect toxin is an elevated level of histamine generated by bacterial breakdown of histidine in the muscle protein through elevated production of the enzyme histidine decarboxylase. This natural spoilage process is thought to release additional by-products, which cause the toxic effect. Freezing, cooking, smoking, curing or canning does not destroy the potential toxins.
Symptoms of poisoning can show within just minutes, and up to two hours, following consumption of a spoiled dish. Symptoms usually last for approximately four to six hours and rarely exceed one to two days.
The first signs of poisoning suggest an allergic reaction with the following symptoms:
- facial flushing/sweating
- burning-peppery taste sensations in the mouth and throat
The above symptoms can advance to the following:
In the worst cases, the poisoning may:
- blur vision
- cause respiratory stress
- cause swelling of the tongue
Scombroid poising is usually treated by a physician prescribing an anti-histamine to the subject.